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Let’s set the record straight. I’m not here to discredit the potential of either DeAndre Ayton or Marvin Bagley. Unlike another contributor on this page, I believe Ayton is going to be an absolute monster in the league. He already has the body and athleticism to overpower most NBA bigs while Bagley has the polish and motor on offense to produce for 10+ years.
It seems increasingly likely that a big man will be the first pick in this year’s NBA Draft (sorry Luka Doncic). That being said, the best of the bunch is Texas one-and-done Mo Bamba. Bamba’s ceiling is the Gates of Heaven. His genetics resemble a thoroughbred NBA unicorn. And he is a true student of the game.
At the NBA combine, the Harlem product measured in at about 7-foot-1 with shoes while also claiming the longest wingspan ever recorded in combine history (7-foot-10).
During Bamba’s freshman season, he led the Big 12 conference with 3.7 blocks per game. His shot-blocking ability will rival that of the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert as soon as he enters the league. He’s already longer than Gobert and has shown the capability to swat shots with either hand. Don’t be surprised when he is in the running for NBA Defensive Player of the Year within his first few years in the league.
Have I mentioned Mo is faster than Russell Westbrook? In a private workout with the Chicago Bulls, Bamba ran a 3/4 court sprint in just 3.04 seconds, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. That time checks in faster than Westbrook (3.08), D-Wade (3.08), James Harden (3.13), AND John Wall (3.14). He’ll be able to run the floor with any point guard in the NBA and serve as a premier lob-catcher from day 1.
Not only is he an off-the-charts athlete and defensive wall, Bamba already looks the part of a modern stretch-5. With the help of renowned NBA Strategic Skills Coach & Consultant, Drew Hanlen, Mo has been modeling his game over the past few months after the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid. Hanlen is well respected in the NBA circuit and works with a slew of notable hoopers such as Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal, and future NBA star R.J. Barrett, just to name a few.
While Bamba didn’t shoot the 3 at a quality clip last year at Texas (just 27.5%), Hanlen has revamped Bamba’s mechanics to improve his release time and efficiency as a shooter. After working with Hanlen between his freshman year at Duke and rookie season for the Boston Celtics, Jayson Tatum raised his 3-point shooting percentage from 34.2% in college to 43.4% his rookie year. Expect a dramatic increase from Bamba as well. Bamba has also been working to improve his shot-creating ability on the block, in the mid-post, and off the dribble.
Of the one-and-done big man prospects, Bamba didn’t leave college as the most polished big in this draft class, but he will be the best. His ability to switch onto any position on defense will make him invaluable and earn him quality minutes in any playoff series. He is significantly better than Bagley at switching onto ball handlers at this early stage in his career. In today’s NBA, that skill alone determines whether or not you’ll be on the court in the playoffs – ask guys like Ryan Anderson and Enes Kanter.
The work ethic, the IQ, and the physical tools are all there for Bamba. Just hope your team isn’t the one to pass on him next Thursday night.