They Smell Like the Future: Bamba Fall

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 8, 2009 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read


Photo by AP Photo/Lance Murphey.

SMU Senior
7′1”, 200 lbs.
22 years old (turns 23 later this month)
Center
Projection: 2nd round/undrafted

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: seven footer from Senegal and Oak Hill Academy seems like a solid defensive prospect but never shows the ability to be an offensive threat.  Bamba Fall, you are the ghost of DeSagana Diop’s past. 

At the risk of sounding redundant, I’m going to say that Bamba Fall isn’t an offensive threat in the paint.  In fact, he and Texas A&M prospect Chinemelu Elonu are very similar in many facets, with Elonu getting a slight edge despite his shorter stature and dubious availability.  You should know the drill by now: both are big bodies that could help the Mavs defensively, but don’t appear to be projects or prospects worthy of heavy investment or consideration.  They’re not even on the level of Dikembe Mutombo or Hasheem Thabeet comparisons, because they’re more in the realm of Diop.  Both, at best, would be insurance policies to protect the Mavs from a roster flake-out or a Ryan Hollins implosion.  Hollins appears to be a much better prospect at this point, despite his generally poor rebounding numbers.  His energy and athleticism in the front court give the Mavs something that Fall (or Elonu) cannot.

The thing with prospects from small-time programs is that you need to ask “why?”  Some players simply elect to attend a smaller school for educational, familial, or monetary reasons, but others are forced to play for less prestigious basketball schools because they didn’t have the chops as freshmen.  Obviously not all players from big schools pan out, but those teams typically have the faculties and means to scout high school prospects with a great amount of depth.  In his four years at SMU, has Fall shown anything that would make a bigger program sigh with regret?  Has he shown the kind of development you’d expect from a four-year college player?  The easy answer is no.  I’m sure Fall has improved since his freshman year at SMU, but even as of now I think Fall wouldn’t start on a vast majority of NCAA teams.  He has the height to be a productive, if not dominant college player, but hasn’t been able to take advantage of that against smaller, weaker college opponents.  SMU is in Conference USA, which is definitely one of the weaker conferences in Division I (Memphis excluded, of course); Fall’s inability to find great success despite that level of competition doesn’t bode well for his pro prospects.

I don’t mean to rip into smaller schools, less prestigious basketball schools, or the players that wear their uniforms.  There are plenty of players who have been able to find professional success after playing for a smaller school.  However, those players were usually excellent as collegiate athletes, a standard to which Bamba falls short.  There’s a reason why Bamba Fall was playing at SMU.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Fall.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are obviously based on Fall’s four-year career at SMU.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

This is as expected; Fall would be an end-of-the-bench guy at best, the last big man on a team.  Don’t let Fabricio Oberto’s success as a member of the Spurs fool you, he was never a very productive player in the NBA.  Bamba Fall won’t have the opportunity that Oberto did, and likely won’t stick in the league.