My Biggest Scouting Misses: Mo Bamba
"Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them."
For scouts, looking at their pas evaluations is essential practice. Prospect grading is some combination of art, science, research and luck. The luck aspect can always factor in, where externalities or unforeseen developments derail or stymie a player's growth. Still, relying on luck is bad practice, especially when trying to come up with guidelines for how to engage on the science and research aspect. You either win or you learn, so let's look back and learn.
Just as the political winds shift every four-to-eight years, the basketball landscape does as well. Innovations, new stylistic trends and dynastic teams merit a change to team-building so that franchises stay ahead of the curve. Sometimes that means evaluating a prospect just as the curve is changing, anticipating what the next paradigm-altering techniques are so that no you can be the first team to fully embrace it.
Other times, the opposite occurs. A great player gets left behind on the trend, drafted for the skills they possess while quickly falling back from the pack as those traits become outdated.
Mo Bamba is my biggest scouting failure of the seven years I have been scouting NBA prospects. The strikeout on my end is due, largely, to the changing trends of the league. In 2018, when Bamba was due to be drafted, he stood atop my draft boards, one spot ahead of Luke Doncic and two of Trae Young. The evaluations of the others were consistent: both would be multi-time All-Stars and foundational pieces for their franchise.
Bamba, my argument went, would be just as foundational and impactful. He was a 7'1" shot blocker with a nearly 7'10" wingspan. He swatted 3.7 shots a game, made 14 treys, shot over 60% inside the line and a double-double in half his outings. He looked dominant defensively while possessing a tantalizing trait on offense with his shooting. He would be Rudy Gobert, 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, with a jump shot.
Adam Spinella, Head Boys Basketball Coach, Boys' Latin School (MD)