Suns Squared: Mo Bamba will be the first NBA Condor

AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 3: Mohamed Bamba #4 of the Texas Longhorns slam dunks against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Frank Erwin Center on February 3, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 3: Mohamed Bamba #4 of the Texas Longhorns slam dunks against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Frank Erwin Center on February 3, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images) /

In a draft full of seven-footers, Mo Bamba is the human embodiment of a Condor and is ready to join the ranks of elite defensive centers, someone the Phoenix Suns would be lucky to select.

The beginning of all talk about Mo Bamba starts with his wingspan and defensive potential. This is rightfully so, Bamba has a 7’9″ wingspan with a 9’6″ standing reach and can reportedly dunk a basketball without jumping, but just standing up on the tips of his toes. Bamba’s size predisposes him to be an elite rim protector, but he combines it with above-average athleticism, specifically lateral quickness which completes his overall defensive game.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Bamba averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, and an unbelievable 3.6 blocks per game in his freshman season at Texas. Bamba’s offensive game is undeveloped and he is a weak free throw shooter at only 68%, and he shot almost two 3-pointers per game. However, he has only made 27.5% on those attempts. Bamba’s strength is his defense and all of the advanced numbers point to that. His block rate is 12.9% which is more than 4% better than the top NBA center this year. His defensive box plus-minus is 8.8 which is also significantly better than even the top NBA player this year as well.

Bamba will immediately make an impact on the defense end of the floor as soon as he gets to the league, this much is clear from not only his numbers but his play on the floor. Despite the early exit from the tournament, Texas’ defense was predicated on Bamba deterring the opposing offense from attacking the rim. Nevada’s offense opened significantly after fouling out Bamba.

The biggest worry with Bamba – and it is a big one – is his frame. Bamba is frighteningly skinny, his legs look like twigs (comparatively). On, Bamba is listed at 7’0 but only 216 pounds, to put that into perspective, DeAndre Ayton is also listed a 7’0 but weighs 250 pounds.

This difference is clear when watching clips of the two side by side. Bamba does have broad shoulders and will likely be able to put on weight but he needs to get that weight on sooner rather than later. Bamba is in a position where his biggest struggle come next year will be getting pushed around in the paint, I can’t even imagine what a player like Steven Adams will do to him next year.

The best comparison I have seen from Bamba is Rudy Gobert, an incredibly long defensive center that is an elite rim runner, however, he also gives me slight Cauley-Stein vibes. Cauley-Stein took a while to find his place in the league but seems to have gotten there, he came in as a hyper long, hyper-athletic big who also was a little skinny. I think Bamba has a much higher ceiling than Cauley-Stein but I would not be surprised to see Bamba’s early career play out like a rich man’s Cauley-Stein as he moves his way to becoming like Gobert. If Bamba can also add a 3-pointer to his arsenal, then he will fit as a stretch 5 of the future who also rim protects at an elite level.

Next: Suns Squared: Luka Doncic

Going with Bamba, like going with any center in this draft will show that the Suns are ready to move off of Len and that Chriss and Bender are more of 4’s than 5’s. Bamba can provide a defensive anchor that can help bail out some of the weaker Suns defenders ehile also forming a deadly pick and roll combo with Booker. I would still rate Bamba below Ayton and Jaren Jackson on my board, but if catastrophe happens and the Suns slip in the lottery, ending up with Bamba would not be a disappointment in the slightest.