Orlando Magic

"Para bailar MO Bamba
Para bailar MO Bamba
Se necessita una poca de gracia" – Ritchie Valens

To dance Mo Bamba

To dance Mo Bamba

It needs a little grace

Mohamed Bamba – Orlando:  Every time I see Mo Bamba play, the famous Ritchie Valens song immediately comes to my head and I sing the opening lines, in a slight variation.  Indeed, in order for Mo Bamba to do the NBA dance, it’s gonna’ take a lot more grace…

            Nowhere else is there more a prime example of drafting based on pure potential than the case of Mo Bamba.  Physically, it’s easy to understand why teams would take a gamble on a kid who was a McDonalds All-American and in flashes at the University of Texas seemed poised to ascend to the highest levels of play.  His 7’10 wingspan is enough to get coaches and GM’s salivating over themselves, along with his height of 7’1 and the fact that he has the ability to run the floor and displays a more than competent overall physical coordination, including soft hands and good feet.

            But it does not take a microscopic analysis of his game to clearly see that strength has not only been an issue for him in college, but especially in the Las Vegas Summer League.  Bamba looked completely out of his element.  Literally like a fish out of water.  The only thing slower than his defensive rotations were his rolls to the basket in ball-screening situations.  He would roll and immediately get caught up in the wash of bodies checking him as he sauntered toward the paint.  Rarely was he in a great position to recieve a post catch after rolling to the basket.  But really, catching it there and scoring it isn't his game yet and, wasn't really his game at Texas either.  He did command double teams in college which helped inform his passing ability out of the post. 

          He was not in shape this summer, not unlike most rookies getting used to NBA level speed.  The NBA game, at this point, is way beyond his reach.  There are shades of Thon Maker early in his rookie year where, you could tell there’s certainly something there, but it’s a way’s off.  As of right now, I don’t see Bamba at the level of an NBA rotation player on any team.

            With that said – his summer league stats weren’t all that bad.  In nearly 20 minutes of action, he averaged nearly nine points and six rebounds, while blacking 2.5 shots.  Those are really good shot blocking numbers per minutes played.  He only attempted 20 shots in summer league, but converted 12 of them, clearly letting the game come to him and attempting shots which are high percentage.

            He is a bright, engaging, magnetic personality who is an ideal teammate.  He possesses many intangibles which make teams better.  He is realistic about the work which needs to be done, and I have confidence he will put in the work to get himself ready to compete at the NBA level.  I’m just very surprised how far off he is from being ready to play on day one of summer league.  He needs to put on 20-30 pounds of muscle, and beyond that, learn how to play with more physicality.  He is so willing to let others push him around.  Attacking the glass to rebound or block shots should be his immediate focus, but in order to do those things, he is going to need to undergo and transformational understanding of how physical and fast the NBA game is. 

            I’m not willing to give up on Bamba, since I suspect he has the intangibles would lend themselves out to gaining deeper clarity on how he will need to adapt his game, but man, for someone picked at #6, one would think it would pass the eye test with much more ease….