Ousmane N’Diaye has generated almost equal excitement and intrigue among international scouts for the past three years. In early 2020, N’Diaye had an outstanding performance for Bayern Munich at the Szent Istvan U16 Basketball Cup in Hungary, where he showed impressive perimeter skills for his age and height, being able to plant the ball and create space against opponents one-on-one -one and shoot the basketball.
After the COVID pandemic led to the cancellation of the entire 2020/21 basketball season in Germany as well as all junior basketball tournaments in Europe, we finally had the opportunity to see N’Diaye play once again for Dragons Rhöndorf in the 2021/22 season in the German third division where he saw crucial minutes and continued to show the flashes of perimeter skills for his size.
Following his performance at the FIBA Africa Under-18 Championships last month, it’s time to delve into the tome and examine how the Senegalese youngster could contribute to NBA-level victory.
The first thing that strikes you about N’Diaye is how fluid he is for his size. Listed at 6-foot-11 with long legs and arms, N’Diaye handles the ball with the fluidity of a perimeter player, using his long arms to maintain a low dribbling point. He really shines in drive initiation, where he uses a series of dribbling moves (crossovers, in-and-outs) to throw defenders off balance and attack the rim.
As good as he is at initiating drives, N’Diaye is limited as a finisher as he shot just 32% in the restricted zone with the Africa U18s, according to InStat. The key factor is his lack of power, which makes it difficult for him to separate against similarly sized opponents and forces him to turn over or hit hard, lower-percentage shots further from the edge.
However, N’Diaye also shows the ability to contribute as a goalscorer from the periphery as his shooting ability is excellent for someone of his size and age. At Africa U18, N’Diaye converted 32.1% of the 8.8 3-pointers he attempted per game; excellent volume and percentages considering the lack of shots around him and especially the difficulty of the shots he attempts.
N’Diaye is an efficient off-the-catch shooter that showcases repeatable mechanics and long range, but what’s even more impressive are his moments of shooting from dribble, where he uses his handling ability to counter in ISO situations Defenders to make room before you rise for stepback jumpers. N’Diaye is able to pressurize and off-balance shots, displaying a high level of delay that allows him to stop and snap at jumpers, both as a transition handler and after he has his man hit in half field.
Defensively, N’Diaye still seems to be looking for an optimal role. He contributes as a prolific defensive rebounder and can deny shots with relative ease given his size and range. While he’s been effective in that area at the junior level, given his aforementioned lack of strength, it’s hard to imagine him having an impact similar to a full-time NBA-level five from day one.
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While he does his bit as a full-back, using his height and length to deny jumpers and disrupt drivers on their way to the edge, his narrow hips and high center of gravity make it difficult for him to get into a defensive stance and close keep rotating his hips quickly to cover rides.
NBA questions and projections
N’Diaye has clear potential as a shot creator on both jump shots and drives to the basket, though the main question in those areas is how consistent he can be.
N’Diaye is set to move to Spain for the upcoming 2022-23 season, where he will play for Baskonia. If he continues to act as a self-builder and is able to maintain his level of play for a full season at his new destination, then I don’t expect many NBA teams to even question it if the skills are there. However, I expect teams to wonder how they can use his unique combination of size and skills to win games.
With the measurements of a great, the skills of a perimeter player, and some glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed before he can contribute to NBA-level victory, N’Diaye is an odd case.
I think it all starts with him growing into his physique because as he gets stronger it will either fix or cover up some of the current flaws in his game.
Given his body type, his optimal defensive role will likely be that of an off-ball defender, using his length to cover larger perimeter forwards and protecting the perimeter at a secondary level, helping to deny and post-penetration shots To block. But to do that, he needs to get stronger or he could just be bullied by the size of taller NBA forwards.
On offense, a stronger strength would allow him to improve as a driver, which then makes him a threat to not only score from outside the arc but also on the edge.
As is the case with enigmatic prospects, the ground is low with him, but being a two-tier self-maker at 6ft-11 is as rare as it is valuable, and N’Diaye definitely has the skills and tools to make it become one. Once June 2023 rolls around, its cap could prove too tempting for certain NBA teams to waive it at some point in the draft.
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