The towering 7-footer from Harlem, who played his one collegiate season at Texas, worked out individually with Phoenix on Saturday, the third player to do so this week as the Suns weigh their options with the No. 1 overall pick this month in the NBA draft.
“Mo had a really good workout,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said. “His wingspan, his standing reach, is off the charts. His ability to protect the rim I think will be elite at the NBA level, in addition to his ability to rebound the ball. Another thing that stood out to us in his workout today is we can tell he’s been working on his shooting.”
Bamba has been working with noted shooting coach Drew Hanlen and has made significant changes to his form.
McDonough described Bamba’s old form as “a slingshot” approach with the ball released far behind the shooter’s head.
Bamba said the changes have “made like a night-and-day difference in just my mechanics, getting the ball off smoother and having softer landing on the rim.”
“My makes are all net and my misses are landing very soft and long instead of short,” he said.
Bamba has a 7-foot-10 wingspan, the largest ever recorded at the NBA combine. McDonough said Bamba’s highest vertical jump was 12 1-2 feet, “which is crazy.”
As for the comparison with Gobert, the shot-blocking center of the Utah Jazz, McDonough said “honestly I think at 20 years old he’s ahead of where Rudy was.”
“Now Rudy’s made tremendous strides over the last three or four years,” McDonough said. “The question for Mo is can he fill out his body the way Rudy has. But in terms of measurements, they’re similar. In terms of the willingness and desire to anchor a defense and protect the rim, they’re similar. I think Mo probably is a little more mobile at the same age and Rudy is probably stronger, more physically developed at the same age.”
Bamba loves the comparison.
“He just changed the geometry of the game,” Bamba said. “When he’s not blocking the shot, he’s in the back of your mind.”
McDonough calls Bamba “a super-bright guy, one of the smarter guys I’ve seen in the last 10 or 15 years come through the pre-draft process.”
Bamba believes that intelligence will serve him well in the NBA.
“I have the natural ability to pick things up a lot faster than I think most people would,” he said, “and I think I’ve shown that in the workout that we did today. … IQ is really big. It’s something that you really want to have on and off the court and it takes your game to the next level for sure.”
Bamba weighs 234 pounds.
“He’s super-long but he’s thin so he needs to add some length to his body, especially the lower body,” McDonough said. “But I think from day one he’ll be able to step on the court and impact games defensively, block shots, rebound and then be an over-the-top lob threat and then build the rest of his game out from there.”
Bamba said he is working out for other teams but didn’t want to identify them. Ayton said the Suns were the only team he’s working out with. Bagley planned to work out with Sacramento and Atlanta, teams with the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively, in the June 21 draft.
Ayton said he knows he will be the No.1 pick. Bagley said he, not Ayton, deserves to be.
Bamba was more diplomatic.
“Everyone feels entitled to it, but I have no entitlement to it,” he said. “It’s something that obviously I worked my butt off for and my whole thing is to put it in very short sentences – I do more and I require less. The Suns are more than a perfect fit for me.”