People have been asking me a lot recently about what I like to do for fun. “What are your hobbies?” they ask me, expecting a normal response of something like “Oh I love riding my bike through the city” or “I’m a total movie snob.” Instead, it generally warrants a bit of a chuckle from me as I think about the countless hours I spend sitting on my couch, polishing off cases of Miller Lite because it’s Monday and I don’t have work. That’s not a hobby, though, I think to myself. As they continue to stare at me, now with a bit of confusion in their glance, I normally say something bizarre like, “Oh, ummmm, I watch a lot of basketball and baseball. Actually, last week I wrote 2,000 words about the guys I think are going to get taken in the NBA Lottery. I also like to yell at my friends because they think Kyrie Irving is an important basketball player.” As you can imagine, this very often results in people slowly walking away from me.
The point of that socially uncomfortable anecdote is to make a point that I spend basically all of my waking hours thinking about basketball players, whether amateur or professional. This time of year, of course, lends itself to thinking about amateur players that are soon to be professional. There are many good players in this year’s draft pool. Unlike last year’s guard-heavy class, this year we are seeing a glut of highly-skilled big men. One that I have not really been able to stop thinking about is Mo Bamba, a one-and-done player from The University of Texas, who I really struggle to believe is human.
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) June 5, 2018
That report initially came out about a week ago and has been circulating Twitter ever since. That report also does not account for his shooting touch, which is not only capable but smooth.
Mo Bamba is a special talent. Best defensive player in the draft, and now he is knocking down threes. pic.twitter.com/nbFkPDLBtg
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) June 9, 2018
Of course, the main thing that is important with his skillset is his length and defensive ability. Per 40 minutes in his lone college season, he averaged five blocks per game to go along with 14 boards per game. Per 100 possessions, those numbers inflate to 7.3 blocks and 20.8 rebounds. His length of 7-10 is obvious, and he knows how to use it where length is the most important thing, on the boards and while playing internal defense.
The number one pick has pretty steadily had DeAndre Ayton, a two-way stud from Arizona that is physically imposing and offensively gifted, in the coveted spot across draft boards. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, I just want to challenge it. It’s not as clear-cut as 2016 when Ben Simmons was taken number one overall by the Sixers or 2015 when the Timberwolves snagged a franchise centerpiece in Karl-Anthony Towns.
Mo Bamba, in my opinion, has the highest ceiling in this draft amongst any player, not just the big men. His length is unarguable and will always protect him on the defensive side of the ball. This means he can dedicate more time to his offensive game, which by the clip above, seems like is already the case. He shot close to 70% from the free throw line this season, also, so the potential is there for a capable and consistent jump shot from 15 feet and beyond.
On top of that, he might already be the most talented player available. Ayton is capable of scoring from every square inch of the floor, but Bamba’s defense cancels out Ayton’s clear advantage on offense. Jaren Jackson’s stock has changed from sleeper to high-value because of his shooting ability and his defensive prowess, but his physical gifts come nowhere close to comparing to Mo Bamba’s freakish physicality. Bagley, who I believe is also being undervalued in this draft, and Wendell Carter, both from Duke, have had erratic stocks that have bounced all around the lottery.
I don’t think it will happen and I’m not even entirely sure that it should, but the more I’ve engaged in my hobby and thought about this NBA Draft, the more I’ve convinced myself of Bamba going number one. I think he’s already an immovable object defensively and has a chance to be an unstoppable force in the next 2-3 years. This draft has so much frontcourt talent that every single thought needs to be challenged. Nothing is clear-cut. Everyone has incredible upside and stocks are constantly moving.
In the most recent mock draft installation on NBAdraft.net, Bagley has seen his stock rise as high as number two and Bamba has fallen to six. The point is, no one knows. Ayton is really good. Jackson is really good. Bagley is really good. I’m just saying Bamba has a really good chance to be the best out of all of them.
Also, this can do nothing but help:
Mo Bamba has been taking notes on Joel Embiid's game. pic.twitter.com/3iZgyXkrWi
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 10, 2018