Draft Profile: How Will Mo Bamba Perform in the NBA?

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The Hawks hold the rights to the #3, #19, #30 and #34 picks in the upcoming June 21 NBA Draft. At Hawks.com, we'll be talking to some of the writers and bloggers who watched some of this year's key prospects most closely. 

Today we'll talk about University of Texas center Mo Bamba with Cody Daniel (@CodyDanielSBN) , Co-Editor of Burnt Orange Nation.

What does Mo do well? 

When Bamba’s strengths are discussed, everything obviously begins with his shot-blocking and rebounding ability, thanks in large part to his mind-boggling 8-foot wingspan. At Texas, Bamba averaged 4.9 blocks and 14 rebounds per 40 minutes. He’s willing to contest outside and has the lateral quickness to do so, which will be essential in today’s NBA. On the other end of the court, his offense isn’t exactly worth writing home about at this point, but Bamba is capable and willing to stretch the floor out to the perimeter, although more consistency would be ideal. To that end, Bamba is tremendously intelligent and that should help as he continues to learn the intricacies of the game and develop, especially offensively where he’s not quite as naturally impactful.

How does his game translate to the NBA?

Bamba’s game should translate pretty smoothly considering that his floor is that of an elite shot-blocker. At the very least, even should Bamba’s offensive game never develops, he’s a guy who’s going to erase and alter a lot of looks around the rim and provide an offense with a massive lob target that teams will likely fall asleep on early. It also helps that he’s an exceptional floor runner and will find looks in transition. If flashes of Bamba’s freshman season and various offseason workouts are a sign of things to come, he’ll eventually get to a point where he looks the part of an ideal modern-day center who protects the paint and can provide points out to the perimeter.  

What can he do to improve?

The most obvious answer is to bulk up and become more consistently competent on the offensive end, and various reports and profiles have detailed Bamba’s effort to address both areas since declaring for the draft. An improved diet and re-shaping his shooting form have been among the strategies to that end. Beyond that, even once he adds bulk, Bamba will need to show a greater level of comfort fighting through physicality around the rim on offense, and his motor can be inconsistent, although that may have simply been due to Bamba eyeing the NBA from the time he committed to Texas. As is, Bamba is an elite defensive prospect, and once his frame fills out and he finds his touch offensively, Bamba has the potential to become one of the the league’s best young bigs. 

What style of play suits his game best?

Bamba’s athleticism and rim-running ability allow him to impress in up-tempo situations, but ideally, he would be at his best in the half court, both offensively and defensively. The defensive aspect is obvious given his length and defensive instincts once he is able to dissect an opposing offense. As far as his offense is concerned, Bamba’s upside will be found as a face-up scorer who will often work off the block and out to the elbow.

To which current or past NBA player would you compare him?

Considering his length and limited offensive ability at this point in his progression, the Rudy Gobert comparisons are the most common and make the most sense. Nerlens Noel also comes to mind mind as a lanky, underweight rim-protector with the length, athleticism and sheer instincts to overcome not being quite as sturdy as he should be, at least until he gets bigger in a few years. However, I believe Bamba’s offensive ceiling is quite clearly much higher than Gobert, and obviously Noel, and Bamba has said publicly that he hopes to mold his game after Joel Embiid.