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2019 NBA Draft Profile: Charles Bassey is a raw talent that could sneak into the first round

Just how good could the former five-star recruit be in the NBA?

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Western Kentucky Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Bassey began his college career a year earlier than planned when he reclassified to the class of 2018 and committed to Western Kentucky. It was another five-star big man coup for Rick Stansbury following the strange Mitchell Robinson fiasco a year prior that led to Robinson never playing a game in Bowling Green, Ky.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New York Knicks
Chalres Bassey was the five-star big Western Kentucky never got with current Knick Mitchell Robinson
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Luckily for WKU fans, this time their highly touted commit stayed and started all 34 games for the Hilltoppers. Bassey averaged 14.6 points on 62.7 percent shooting from the field (64.2% effective field goal percentage), 10.0 rebounds (had 15 or more rebounds on four occasions), 2.4 blocks (second in CUSA). Currently, the majority of mock drafts have Bassey going in the early-to-mid second round, while some have him sneaking into the late first round.

The first thing to know about Bassey’s game is that is still fairly raw. The 18 year-old Nigerian was a soccer player before he picked up basketball when he was 12 years old. Bassey then came to the United States two years later and was thrown into high school ball and the AAU circuit, where he became the ninth best prospect in the nation for the class of 2018. While he is a talented player, he will certainly be a project for whatever team selects him on draft night.

Let’s get physical

Here’s how Bassey lines up with some of his player comparisons (more on these comps later):

Pre-Draft Measurements

Name Height (With Shoes) Weight Wingspan
Name Height (With Shoes) Weight Wingspan
Charles Bassey 6'10 239 7'3.5
Clint Capela 6'11 222 7'4.5
Ekpe Udoh 6'9.75 237 7'4.5
Gorgui Dieng 6'10.75 229.6 7'3.5
David West 6'9.25 226 7'4.25

Strengths

When you look at Bassey’s strengths, you have to start with his rebounding. His big body allows him to establish his spot in the paint on defense and pull down rebounds with ease, while his tenacity to crash the boards hard leads to monstrous put-back dunks that can be momentum killers for opposing teams.

While Bassey may not be the quickest player on the perimeter, he can certainly impact the game down low with his interior defense thanks to his solid frame and long wingspan. He was an excellent shot-blocker at the college level and should continue to improve as he develops.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Western Kentucky
Charles Bassey hopes his talent for blocking shots will continue on in the NBA.
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

One of Bassey’s biggest strengths that will be highlighted in the NBA is his transition offense. With the pace of the NBA continuing to rise, Bassey will have plenty of opportunities to effectively get down the floor and use his excellent finishing ability at the rim for some easy buckets.

He’s no slouch in the half-court either. Bassey is an excellent screener, and while he has work to do with his IQ in the pick and roll, he could potentially be a nice piece for teams to run high screens through. He can also keep defenders honest with his somewhat reliable mid-range jumper (40.8 percent on two-point jumpshots). Also of note, Bassey should prove to be hack-a-Shaq proof. He shot 76.9 percent from the charity stripe in his lone campaign with Western Kentucky.

Weaknesses

Bassey’s high school and AAU mixtapes are full of him catching lobs and dunking all over the opposition. The only catch is this was against smaller defenders who don’t compare to the freaks of nature that populate the NBA. Additionally, these mixes are pretty deceitful as Bassey has struggled with his hands, especially in the pick and roll. He would fumble passes with pressure around him and miss reads that he will have even less time to react to at the next level. It is expected whoever selects Bassey will work on molding him into a more potent threat in the pick and roll.

On the other side, a big man’s ability to guard the pick and roll is just as important as being an effective roller. In order to have a long career in the NBA, Bassey will without a doubt need to work on his perimeter defense. His strong lower body makes it somewhat difficult for him to move around, but not enough to the point where it is a major red flag, and he can still improve his foot speed and agility (he had an underwhelming 12.65s in the Lane Agility Drill at the Combine). Playoff-caliber NBA teams don’t want centers who will be relentlessly attacked on the perimeter unless they’re an insanely talented offensive product. Teams want competent perimeter defenders that can switch onto guards and not be a negative on the floor.

Now, you may look at this tweet and wonder “What does this have to with Charles Bassey’s weaknesses?” Allow me to explain.

I really want to zero in on that “45 percent from 3” part of this tweet. Yes, Bassey did shoot 45.0 percent from behind the arc, which is an excellent clip for a center (or anybody) and is usually something NBA scouts will lose their minds over. However, he shot 45% on 20 attempts. This ends up giving Bassey an average of 0.3 3P on 0.6 3PA per game. This is a similar situation as last year’s first overall pick De’Andre Ayton. Ayton averaged 1.0 3PA at Arizona and connected on 34.3 percent of them. However, in his rookie season Ayton only attempted four shots from downtown the entire season. The issue with Bassey’s three-point shooting is the volume suggests a lack of confidence in his shot from deep. While there are plenty of impactful centers in the NBA who lack a three-point shot, they offer other valuable skills such as the ability to switch onto guards, top-percentile rebounding, or an elite post-game. While it possible for Bassey to excel in these other areas, developing a consistent three-point shot that keeps defenders honest could be what keeps him in the league for a long time.

Flashes of...

The most common player comparison I have seen for Bassey is Houston Rockets cente Clint Capela. While this makes sense considering the two entered the league as raw, rim-running centers who have a keen ability to block shots, Capela was considered to be a much quicker and explosive prospect. It’s important to note these superior aspects of Capela’s game as this has allowed him to become one of the NBA’s best rim protectors.

I think a much more reasonable comparisons for him Gorgui Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Dieng is another prospect who was heralded for his shot-blocking and high motor. Additionally, the two have similar heights, weights, and wingspans. Dieng was a better perimeter defender and higher IQ player by the end of his college career, but he also had two more years and played for Rick Pitino. Dieng is the player Bassey could turn out to be should he develop his three point shot and continues to develop on defense.

Duke v Louisville
Charles Bassey has quite a few similarities to Gorgui Dieng, known for his interior defense and high motor at Louisville and now the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In addition to Dieng, I do see some flashes of Ekpe Udoh in Bassey’s game. Udoh was the sixth overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in 2010, but went on to have a fairly underwhelming career given where he was selected. Udoh and Bassey share physical measurements and athleticism. Udoh was also praised for his offensive rebounding, high-motor, and rim protection, but his defense outside the post and lack of explosiveness raised questions. Nevertheless, Udoh has managed a fairly long career so far, and one that a prospect like Bassey, who is projected into the second round, would be considered a mild success.

Also listed on my measurement comparison table was David West. I consider West’s archetype and career to be Charles Bassey’s ceiling. West was a two-time NBA champion and two-time NBA All-Star who made up for his lack of explosiveness and quickness with crafty scoring. It is important to remember that Bassey is still incredibly raw and that it is still entirely possible for him to develop a game that caters to his strengths and counters his weaknesses similar to how West did.

The Verdict

Charles Bassey will not be taken in the lottery on NBA Draft night. There are too many bigs in this draft class who are more athletic and at the very least have similar skillsets. One thing that can only hurt Bassey’s draft stock is how centers who lack shooting and the ability to switch on defense were replaced by smaller players who are more athletic and skilled in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

The good news for Bassey is that he is still young. He has all the tools he needs to keep up with the pace of the NBA, he just needs to make sure he has a team dedicated to working with him on developing the skills that currently make him a liability on the court. Bassey is a perfect example of a player whose success greatly depends on not just himself, but the team that drafts and develops him. If Bassey can find a home with a team known for developing talent such as the San Antonio Spurs, the Boston Celtics, or the Los Angeles Clippers, his upside immediately improves based on his situation.