Mohamed Bamba, 20, of Harlem, NY, stands at 6’11”, 225 pounds and is one of the top prospects in this summer’s NBA Draft. After flashing a quartet of skills in his freshman season at the University of Texas, Bamba hopes to catch the eyes of NBA scouts and executives in the coming weeks. Here’s an in-depth look at his player profile.
Outside Scoring: 8/20
As is always the case with a player like Bamba, most centers that enter the draft with a lean, lanky, and wiry frame don’t evolve into knock-down or even capable 3-point shooters at the NBA level. Bamba drained only 27.5 percent of his 3’s this past season, a percentage that likely stays put during the first couple years of his professional career.
However, if you dig deeper into Bamba’s shooting numbers, you’ll find he attempted 51 3’s in his lone season in college, nearly two per game. In full, there’s enough quantitative data to suggest Bamba is capable of stepping out and making the occasional perimeter shot. Just look at a few of his clips at Texas.
Comparing incoming prospects to current NBA stars, for the most part, isn’t always fair. But, in terms of his physique and 3-point prowess, Bamba’s ceiling can reach heights to that of Anthony Davis today. Following his one-and-done season at Kentucky, Davis entered the draft as a raw shooting prospect, attempting a total of 20 3’s in 2011-12, making them at a 15.6 percent clip.
It also took Davis four NBA seasons to shoot over 30 percent from the perimeter. That’s about where Bamba’s apex can be once he finds an established role in the league. If nothing else, Bamba’s threat as a long-range shooter can be characterized as a “work in progress,” until proven otherwise.
Interior Scoring: 18/20
Bamba’s offensive game is further along than you might initially think. He averaged 12.9 points per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field this past season.
In addition, he played with unbelievable tenacity in the paint at Texas. For a player who only has one year of college experience under his belt, Bamba’s ability to establish position inside early in offensive possessions makes him a reliable scoring threat at the next level.
As you see here, Bamba completes the three-step process: seal his man, catch the entry pass, and score against Ole Miss.
Now, it’s one thing to gain position on a defender. But it’s another to score through tough angles and contact. Time and time again, players of Bamba’s stature fail to finish entire offensive possessions consistently. But not Bamba, who proved to be extremely efficient near the rim last season, shooting 78.8 percent on shots at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
Lastly, what stands out the most about Bamba’s offensive game is that he’s an excellent ball handler for his size. Unlike most 6-foot-11 centers who are flat-footed and clumsy, Bamba has shown impressive glimpses of his length and athleticism when putting the ball on the deck in pick-and-roll situations, driving past and then dunking on defenders, like so.
With continued development, Bamba definitely has the pieces in place to be a force in the interior. He has traits that most bigs today rarely develop this early in their careers. Plus, he’s versatile enough to make an impact even in a position-less driven league.
A well-rounded post player isn’t always measured by how far they can bury a defender in the low block, or how many times they dunk in traffic. Sometimes, just being aware, such as hitting cutters and playing in space, matters during a game, too.
In the age where centers are valued in their ability to facilitate and create open shots for others, Bamba is miles behind the game’s median. Not only did Bamba hold one of the nation’s lowest assist averages among college centers last year (0.5 per game), but he also registered a minuscule 3.4 percent assist rate.
Despite his narrow frame, Bamba held his own very well in the paint against stronger opponents, snatching 10.4 rebounds per game. While Bamba will always be a lean player, he does have broad shoulders, which will always provide him an advantage on the glass.
Bamba’s length, combined with his leaping ability allows him to track down missed shot after missed shot easily. It doesn’t necessarily matter where he is positioned down-low, because Bamba is always near the play.
This clip is a fine example of that. As you’ll see, Bamba is out of position on this missed shot, but it doesn’t matter because his arms are so much longer than anyone else’s that he’s able to secure the defensive board. With that, it’s shouldn’t surprise anyone that Bamba led the Big 12 conference in defensive rebounds per game (7.3) and defensive rebound percentage (28.2 percent).
Bamba controls the offensive glass with proficiency, too. His 3.2 offensive rebounds per contest, as well as his 12.2% offensive rebounding rate, both top 5 in the Big 12, respectively, are strong indicators of his timing around the rim.
Putbacks also represented a healthy diet to Bamba’s rebounding portfolio. According to Hoop-Math, 28.8% of Texas’ total at-rim shot attempts and 26.6% of the team’s total made baskets at the rim came on 49 of Bamba’s putbacks.
Moreover, Bamba is the only center in this year’s draft class capable of skying for a missed shot and slamming it down ferociously one-handed, all in one sequence.
As I’ve mentioned extensively in this profile, Bamba is a truly elite physical specimen in terms of his length. He jumps off the page with his 7’9” wingspan and 9’6” standing reach. This kind of size allowed him to immediately burst on to the college scene as a top-tier rim protector with the measurables to translate this skill to the NBA.
Bamba blocked roughly 3.7 shots per game during the regular season at Texas, and yet, this doesn’t even take into account the countless shots he altered or drive attempts he thwarted, like this one against Michigan.
Timing is a big part of Bamba’s success as a shot-blocker as he only averaged 2.4 fouls per contest in college. His lateral quickness is also very sound for a player who measures close to 7 feet tall. This makes him a capable pick and roll defender and someone who can roam the entire paint area with little effort.
How Bamba didn’t commit a foul in these two plays is mesmerizing.
Free Throw Shooting: 17/20
In an era when long, defensive bigs are often poor free throw shooters, Bamba appears to have the foundation to be dependable at the charity stripe. Although he doesn’t get the line as much as he should, attempting four free throws per game, he made them at a 68.1 percent clip.
Bamba possesses incredible physical tools that provide him with great long-term potential on both ends of the floor. His wingspan and length don’t come along often, which is why he figures to be a capable rebounder and rim protector at the NBA level from day one. This alone gives him one of the highest floors in this draft, along with an extremely high ceiling as well. If he’s able to piece together all the areas of his offensive game, he has the potential to be a legit offensive NBA player while still being a defense-first guy.
Outside Scoring: 8/20
Interior Scoring: 18/20
Free-Throw Shooting: 17/20