Ibou Dianko Badji Scouting Report by Alex Brown (AHB Analytics)

Ibou Dianko Badji Scouting Report

By: Alex Brown @AhbAnalytics


Player Profile

Age – DOB: 18 Years – October 13th, 2002

Reported Measurements (From 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup): 7’1, 240 lbs, 7’8 wingspan, and a 9’10 standing reach.

Current Team: FC Barcelona B – LEB Plata.

Agent: Arturo Ortega (Per RealGM) 

Citizenship: Senegal

Position(s): 5

Background: Hailing from Dakar, Senegal, Ibou Dianko Badji has been renowned for his outlier athletic & physical tools. He reached 7’0 by age 15, but only started playing basketball a few years ago in 2016 (first signed professionally in December of 2018). He attended the NBA Academy Africa in 2017-2018, and played for Senegal’s U19 team during the 2019 FIBA World Cup. He recently has been participating in the 2021 U18 Afrobasket Championship in Cairo. His whole family is tall according to Ibou, and his father formerly played for Senegal at the 5 as well. His older brother and younger brother (Boubaca Badji – currently with Unicaja Malaga) both play basketball as well.

Initially, Badji did not want to play basketball. 4 years ago, his father began pushing him to train for basketball despite Badji wanting to play soccer instead. He committed to basketball when his mother pushed him to listen to his father and train. It is notable to look at how far he has come since his early basketball days in 2016 and then with the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal (2017/18).

Note – His English is currently below average for an international prospect.

Injury Report: No Notable Injury Information Available

Here is an in-depth video scouting report on Badji’s game play based on the last 10 games he has played:

Personality: This is ceiling hindrance for Badji. He does not show an admirable motor or inherent drive.

    • Off The Court: Badji describes himself as easy-going, low-stress, cool guy that likes to have fun. His primary (and desired) source of validation seems to come from others’ perceptions of him. He is typically motivated by others, and seems to lack notable drive. He is initially shy with teammates, but is apparently rather outgoing and supportive once you get to know him. Other interests he has expressed include rap music & football. He has some unrealistic desires regarding his future on-court role, as he wants to be like LeBron James. He likes to study LeBron because he wishes to make a major impact offensively with dribbling, passing, and shooting. Considering these are not skills he has, this is a bit perplexing.
    • On The Court: OTC, Badji needs to build mental toughness and maturity in general. Additionally, he does not seem to be mentally present often, and he plays rather instinctually. Furthermore, sources say that he does not communicate at a professional level on the court or on the bench (yet). Fortunately, his teammates do seem to like him and can be seen making the effort to pick or hype him up when needed. Overall, I get the sense he is one of those prospects that just thinks he will make the league due to his tools – which honestly is probably the case. In the Mike Schmitz DraftExpress interview below, he states that he is playing basketball “to make [his] life easier” after having a conversation where his parents kind of pushed him towards it (football was his first interest). Not a great sign. Overall, he is a project mentally, that’s a given. However, considering the draft night results of Aleksej Pokusevski, this is not a deal breaker for teams if they have the tools. If you want him in a simple role (which is best), then this can be managed  – but a significant ceiling hindrance if it does not change. Change is still very possible in young men, as I know I was not nearly the same person at 18 as I am at 22. The current situation is not desirable though.

Athleticism: Badji is one of the more interesting outlier athletic cases in the upcoming classes, as he is very mobile and coordinated for a 7’1, lengthy 18 year old, but still occasionally misses open dunks and doesn’t possess the best hands. It is not hard to see the athletic appeal when he skies for emphatic blocks, hedges on the perimeter, moves his feet & hips in space, or shows off his incredible leaping ability on dunks. It does not take a genius to see that Badji’s movement is amazing for his size. He covers ground quickly and fluidly with amazing stride length. His movement is the key to his potential defensive versatility, and the differentiating factor for him compared to other bigs with outlier physical tools.

Projected Roles:

  • Offense: Catch and Finish Big | Roll Man | Screener | Lob Threat
  • Defense: Drop Rim Protector & Deterring Interior Presence | Potentially Capable of Soft, Hard Hedge, & Blitz P&R Coverage (though drop is most likely the most effective for now).

Projected 2021 Draft Landing: 20-30 Range (As of December 2020).

Statistical Profile:

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Career Projections: (Note, these show what he could eventually become, not what he will be initially. With Ibou, this is likely years away and should be viewed as a project outcome).

    • High: NBA – High Rotation to Spot Starter – Defensive Specialist & Play Finisher
      • If Badji were to really hit on his upside and play a winning role, it would be as an intimidator that can come off the bench to change the game defensively while catching lobs & finishing plays at a plus rate. His mobility allows P&R coverage versatility that makes him a useful defensive weapon in the playoffs. His feel, engagement, and decision-making remain behind his peers, but slowly improve as the years go on. Shooting improves after a few years, but is still not advisable to employ often. For this to occur, he would need to land on a team with a great coach that really motivates him & connects with him to build up his mental side. Here he builds his discipline and maturity to a professional level, but is still held back to a degree by intangible hindrances.
        • Offensive Neutral to Slight Positive, Significant Defensive Plus. It will still take a long time to really develop his feel, so note that this outcome indicates a possible, but highly successful project outcome.
    • Medium: NBA – Mid Rotation – Defensive Specialist
        • The most realistic outcome would be a long development curve with the end goal of developing Badji to the point where he can excel off the bench in a simple role. Using him as a versatile rim protector that can play multiple P&R coverages will allow him to change the game off the bench. His feel and engagement do not take large strides, but go far enough to make him playable in a simple role. Shooting slightly improves, but is still not advisable to use in-game. Builds maturity to a more professional level, but still suffers from intangible hindrances.
            • Offensive Slight Negative, Defensive Plus. Long development curve, but shows he can make an impact in a simple role.

  • Low: NBA – Low Rotation, Potentially Back Overseas – Rim Protector
    • Mental factors stay largely behind, leaving him as an intimidating rim protector and play finisher to use in short stretches. The lacking feel, motivation, & mental presence really hold Badji back from becoming a long term NBA big. If the mental side doesn’t develop enough there, there is little incentive to play him when it matters, and those guys do not last. This could occur due to him landing in the wrong situation, which could include having too tough of a coach or just not having enough motivating presences around him. Here, he suffers significantly from intangible hindrances.
      • Offensive Negative, Slight Defensive Plus. Long development curve is pushed out even further due to the lacking mental side. This would represent a failed project.

Major Swing Factors: Decision Making, Feel, Awareness, Mental Presence, Spatial Awareness, Maturity, Motivation, Hands, Shooting.


Offense

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Via Instat as of 11/23/20

Strengths

    • Catch and Finish Upside: When you have as elite tools as Badji does, it is not hard to see how valuable he could be in a catch & finish role. That 9’10 standing reach paired with his vertical pop just does not come along every draft. Playing him at the dunker/roller spots with a guard that can really create & operate downhill off breakdowns would be a match made in heaven for Badji, as that is the primary offensive value he will generate. He will obviously need to rely on more than just length at the NBA level if he wants to be a plus finisher, but with his tools he could be one of the more efficient play finishers if that skill blossoms.
        • Vertical Spacing: Stretching the floor is essential in the modern game. Some do it with range, others with size & bounce. Badji has a real chance to be the latter. Ibou is an (often) effortless dunker that can rise up and finish in the blink of an eye. That 9’10 standing reach paired with his mobility make him a constant threat to finish above the rim. He is a big that defenses cannot give space to load, so he absolutely demands a hard tag. If used & developed properly, Ibou could be a truly punishing vertical spacer for opposing defenses.
            • Lob Target Upside: Badji is still raw as a lob target despite the tools. He does a great job finishing from the dunker spot, but has yet to fully develop as a mobile lob threat. He is not yet one of those elite lob targets that can gather and finish strongly with 1 hand in any scenario (see Mitch Robinson, Giannis). His hands just are not there yet, and his lacking spatial awareness does not help. However, with his tools and notable ability to accelerate out of rolls/slips, the base is there to work with. I would have him practice finishing lobs in both good & bad pass drills, because he needs this to be a strength. The potential advantages created here could be so fun to work with.

  • Roll Man Upside: There is a lot of room for improvement as a roll man with Badji, other than as a lob threat. For starters, he differentiates himself by how well he accelerates out of screen actions. He gets moving downhill far better than many bigs his age, but can struggle to capitalize on that 2nd/3rd level. However, if the aforementioned mobile vertical spacing traits take a leap, he could be a really effective roller that can draw a significant amount of fouls. Unfortunately, he gets neutralized by hard tags pretty often and does not keep that ball high despite his length advantage. Lots to work on here if he wants to be a positive, but it is not hard to see the potential. 

Improvement Areas

  • Offensive Feel: Badji is still learning the game. His feel for the game certainly reflects this, as there are glaring instinctual flaws across the board that will need lots of time to improve. There are some far better flashes of feel on defense, but offensively he is multiple years away from being a positive contributor.
    • Decision Making: Unsurprisingly, Ibou needs serious work as a decision maker. He processes the game very slowly as of now, which certainly entails simplifying his role as much as possible. I would limit him to only C&F or roll man actions, as I certainly do not want to have him try and make a play with the ball in his hands (unless it is a significant post mismatch). His decision making with the ball in his hands occasionally suggests an egocentric motivation rather than a team focus.

  • Offensive Awareness: As previously mentioned, Badji is not a very mentally present player. He will give you quite a few head scratchers if you put the ball in his hands in anything other than a C&F situation. Subsequently, I would not consider using him as a playmaker at all, especially as a post distributor.
    • Spatial Awareness: Badji possesses very poor spatial awareness, and it shows up quite often on the offensive end with the timing of his moves, his inability to handle doubles, rebounding, and occasional moves that end up with him in no-mans-land. Lacking this rather inherent skill is very worrying to me.

  • Play Finishing Polish: Badji is still extremely raw on the offensive end despite the appeal of his incredible vertical spacing. He will still occasionally miss open dunks (13/20 in InStat’s recent sample) due being uncomfortable with his body or trying too hard to be emphatic. Polishing up his finishing technique and comfort will be imperative to him becoming a big that can impact winning on the offensive end.
  • Hands: Badji has rather weak hands that cause him to not consistently catch the ball off rebounds, lobs, or high entries. He gets stripped rather easily and struggles to maintain ball control through any form of contact. He often brings the ball low to gather as well, which does not help this issue. His hands do not seem very coordinated either, which certainly augments the impact of his poor spatial awareness.
  • Post Offense: At 0.6 PPP, Badji does not have a lot to offer as a post operator. He does not have many moves in his arsenal, and typically employs a raw space creating move with improper footwork to get to his hook shot (which has impressive touch sometimes). His length assists him greatly if he can get there. Unfortunately, the lack of versatility or distributor skills point to a big who I would only use in the post against notable mismatches where he can dominate with his physical tools.
  • Shooting: Badji is pretty much a non-shooter, for now. He is not a player that should get jumpshots in games yet. His form is actually rather interesting as it is not completely broken and gets some crazy elevation. His issues reside in his base being terribly inconsistent and his release rather volatile. However, I also get the sense that he enjoys shooting the ball, though the lack of attempts definitely points to coaching telling him not to shoot (which I would echo). I would 100% believe he would buy into grinding on his shooting though, as the desire seems to be there as an underlying factor. In a few years if developed properly, he could maybe shoot an open three every once and a while. I wouldn’t bet on it being an important differentiating factor for his success though, but a fun project to play with once he hones the more important parts of the game.

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Quick look at Badji’s release at its finest. There could be something to tap into there, but it is a long way away.


Defense

Strengths

  • Rim Protection: This is rather obvious, is it not? Undoubtedly, Badji’s greatest strength is rim protection. It is pretty easy to fall in love with it, as the majority of his blocks are quite emphatic and frankly laughable at times. The combination of mobility, length, and bounce that Badji possesses will not be encountered often in a rim protector. He is an intimidating deterrence that is sure to make slashers think twice about taking the ball inside, and he doesn’t even need to have excellent timing to block a lot of shots.
    • Blocks: It does not take a masterful eye to see that Badji can really block some shots. So far, his block rate has been ranging from 12% to currently over 15% (smaller sample). Never have I asked myself “is that goaltending?” as often as I do when I watch Badji. He can just get up there to the peak of shots with such ease from a standstill, second or third jump, or as a rotator. No doubt he gets some goaltending calls in the NBA.
      • Rotation & Recovery Speed: Very few 7’1 18 year old bigs can recover or rotate as quickly as Badji can. Quite often it even makes up for his processing speed lapses. As a rotating weak side rim protector, he can decimate attempts at the rim.

    • P&R Coverage Versatility: Here is what really makes Badji a fascinating defensive prospect. His tools make him a positive deterrence in soft/drop coverages, and also allow him to effectively hedge or blitz with potentially effective recovery times. For a 7’1, 240lb big, that is a rare find. While he primarily will be a soft/drop big, the fact that there is more there to work with is always a plus.
    • On-Ball Defense Flashes: That absurd length and mobility allow Badji to play some effective on-ball defense. He is not a big I would want to hunt an isolation against due to his ability to effect shots with his length and slide with slashers. Not only can he get out and block shots on the perimeter against some space creators, but he can also recover quickly enough to make a play on the ball at the rim if he is beaten. He can still get taken to school by good post players that use a lot of fakes and veteran moves, he will need to catch up here.

Improvement Areas

  • Rebounding: Despite his tools, Badji can struggle on the glass by being too weak with the ball, not anticipating positioning well, and showing low spatial awareness. This is a feel area that should typically have developed with experience, but Badji has not quite moved past the reactive stage to reach that anticipatory stage. When one hunts blocks like Badji, it is likely the weak side will be given up to crashing wings or bigs that can catch Badji out of position. Since he impacts shots so much, this can happen rather often.

    • Awareness – Processing: It is rather expected that Badji has some processing issues due to the novelty of the game for him. While he is a great deterring presence at the rim, his gambles can be exposed and mentally present NBA slashers or post operators can exploit his tunnel vision. The lacking mental presence in Badji can show up here rather often, though I am not sure if the larger issue is him not knowing what to do or if he just isn’t paying attention (or both). Either way, keeping him engaged in team defense and teaching him to process the game will be an endeavor that needs undertaking. The mental side looks like he is just thinking about blocking shots off-ball, not the correct play or rotation. 
        • Ball Watching: When you can block shots like Badji, it would be rather natural (instinctively) to hunt them. Badji certainly does, and his tunnel vision on handlers is rather evident often. This can obviously cause him to struggle in team defense scenarios as a result.. Luckily for him, his length & mobility allow him to recover against cutters more often than your typical rim protectors.
        • Communication: Badji is not a good communicator on the defensive end, and can be often suffer from miscommunications with teammates when P&R defense gets more complex than drop. The mental presence and tunnel vision are obvious contributors to this, and it is safe to say that Badji will not be a good communicator initially. It is hard to communicate effectively when you process the game at a slow rate, and Badji suffers from that.


Overall Outlook

Badji is a fascinating project with all the physical tools you could dream of in a dominating 5, but not an ideal mentality to maximize it. How will you leverage the elite defensive tools compared to the myriad of offensive questions, processing speed, & worrying mental signs? The intangibles do not suggest that he will be able to diversify his role much from a rimmrunner/C&F big on offense, nor will he pursue relentless improvement in general. He is years away from being a plus at his position offensively, and betting on him learning at a quicker pace would not be wise if you are looking for an immediate impact bench guy.

Furthermore, you have to take caution with handling his mentality, as building him up mentally will be just as large of a project as building his offensive game (though to be honest, they coincide). A tough coach would not be ideal for his initial development, but rather an enabler. Ideally, this would be one who is highly directive, but highly supportive as well. He will need a great, patient leader that will keep him motivated, and likely one who uses a similar (but naturally adapted) style to the K.V. Kamath leading approach (for example, I am sure there are other successful frameworks, but this one stands out).

If you really love his tools and think you have the right culture to build him up, he could be a really challenging (but fun) project to work on that could yield some great dividends. Mobile 5’s with his outlier tools are so rare that it is likely worth the risk in some capacity, just do not expect him to be your hardest worker or carry a heavy mental load. If your organization is not a patient one or is attempting to compete right now, I would steer clear (or potentially stash depending on your roster) and look at some more self-motivated players.

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