The common misconception I’ve seen on Twitter for months is the idea that Mohamed Bamba is another Hasheem Thabeet. I’m here to say it’s a lazy comparison that isn’t remotely true.
Yes, I understand the PTSD associated with picking Bamba. The Thabeet decision destroyed this franchise’s future, as they were a James Harden or Stephen Curry away from probably winning multiple titles.
However, Mo Bamba isn’t Hasheem Thabeet, and you shouldn’t be upset if the Memphis Grizzlies pick him on draft night (well, unless Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley or healthy Michael Porter Jr. is on the board).
Bamba is much more agile, as he’s nearly 40 pounds lighter than Thabeet was coming out of college. He’s flashed a more well-rounded offensive game, venturing out to the 3-point arc and actually shooting shots from mid-range. When you look at Thabeet’s highlights from college, he didn’t get do anything outside the paint on offense. Defensively, unlike Bamba, Thabeet lacked the footwork to switch onto point guards in the pick-and-roll.
Don’t let the trauma of the Thabeet era blind you from the upside Bamba possesses.
What are some of the other primary strengths and weaknesses from Mo Bamba? Is he a good fit for the Memphis Grizzlies?
The first good thing people will tell you about Mo Bamba is his elite defensive abilities. With his absolutely insane 7’10” wingspan and 9’6” standing reach, he’s a valuable rim protector — drawing comparisons to Rudy Gobert and Dikembe Mutombo. He possess great instincts and timing, as he averaged more blocks (3.7) than fouls (2.5) this past year.
The more intriguing aspect of Bamba’s defensive game is his switch-ability in the pick-and-roll. He’s agile and quick enough to stay in front of perimeter players when switching. If that translates to the NBA, his size would make him a nightmare matchup in these scenarios.
Offensively, he’s an automatic bucket within 3 feet of the basket. Like for real, HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BLOCK THIS:
In addition, his offensive game is evolving, as he has a decent face-up game from mid-range and has improved from 3 over the offseason.
Bamba’s two-way skillset is absolutely tantalizing, flashing the potential to join the next wave of “Unicorn” bigs (Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid).
Bamba’s weaknesses are quite glaring but fixable. For starters, I want to see what he can do defensively when there’s a 3-second violation. Will he still be an effective shot-blocker and rim-protector?
There are also questions about Bamba’s motor. However, guys like Ben Simmons and Andre Drummond lacked a “killer instinct” in college, but have done just fine in the NBA. Maybe one-and-done players are just bored with college ball and are too focused on the NBA. I don’t know, but it’s definitely something to monitor with Bamba.
Bamba has a tendency to float around the perimeter despite being a mediocre shooter at the moment (27.5 percent from deep). He must improve him from both downtown and from mid-range to be considered a serious shooting threat.
From watching Bamba tape I didn’t see too much movement on his part offensively. As mentioned already, he floated around the perimeter quite a bit. In addition, he lingered around the low block a lot, waiting for dump-off passes off of drives. While it’s definitely an easy way for him to generate buckets, I want to see what he can do out of the pick-and-roll — where most big men either cash in (see: DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Clint Capela) or falter (obviously: Hasheem Thabeet).
Finally, some of his weaknesses can be solved with gaining more muscle. Down low, he often finds himself out of position on box-out’s and post-up situations. Granted, he makes up for it with his Inspector Gadget length, but the big men in the NBA are a lot smarter and more physically imposing. It’ll be a tough go at it in his rookie season, but he needs to gain muscle quickly in order to become an above-average starting big man.
NBA Expectations (Ceiling, Floor, Realistic Expectation)
You’ve heard his ceiling. Everybody and their mothers call him “Rudy Gobert with a jumper.” If that happens, you have a perennial Defensive Player of the Year, All-Defensive team, All-NBA, possibly All-Star big man. Reaching that ceiling could make him the best player in his draft class.
Everybody also wants to proclaim that his floor is Hasheem Thabeet. However, he’s simply too athletic and too smart to become another Thabeet, one of the biggest draft busts of the 2000’s. His floor is more Skal Labissiere — a high-IQ, role-playing big man that lacks strength in the post.
Realistically, he’s probably Tyson Chandler with a jumper, which is still a darn good NBA player. He could still be a 10-year starting center, even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling.
Fit with the Grizzlies. Could he be the guy at 4?
Most analysts believe that it’s time to find a Marc Gasol replacement, which is why you see Bamba’s name pop up in mock drafts. However, the Memphis Grizzlies are still in win-now mode, so Bamba shouldn’t be the pick at 4.
It’s an unspoken rule to choose talent over fit, but the Grizzlies need more perimeter-oriented talent — especially with the way the league is going.
If the Grizzlies go with Bamba, they’ll definitely receive unwarranted backlash — mainly due to the Thabeet concerns. However, if they pick him, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll still find a big man tailored for the modern NBA, and he’ll get to learn from one of the best centers from the past decade.
He wouldn't receive as many minutes as guys like Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr., or Mikal Bridges would get on this team. However, next season, he’ll give you a solid 15-20 minutes of potent rim-protecting and rim-running.
Besides, there’s an awesome song after him. That alone is enough to get behind him!