In this edition of NBA prospects you may have never heard of, we are featuring PF/C Mfiondu Kabengele.
Kabengele was Florida State’s sixth man last season, providing quick energy that was needed when the Seminoles’ play became stale. His effort had such an impact that he was named 2019 ACC Sixth Man of the Year. Another note worth mentioning was that he was the only player in the Power-Five Conference last year to lead his team in scoring while coming off the bench.
He’s just really good. He shoots it, he gets it inside, he’s a good passer and a good defensive player. You realize the guy is only playing about 18 to 19 minutes a game and still scoring 13 to 14 points per game. If he played 30 minutes a game, he’d be averaging close to 30 points per game. He’s really good.
Height without shoes: 6’8.5”
Weight: 250 lbs
Last season’s stats: 13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 50.2% from the field and 36.9% from three
Strengths: Shooting touch, size, and interior defense
Kabengele has provided the best shooting resume among all frontcourt players heading into the 2019 NBA Draft. His shot release is fluid and consistent, as his form doesn’t change no matter what area of the court he’s letting go from. Although not as apparent in today’s basketball, Kabengele has been lethal in the mid-range game, where a good portion of his offense generates from. Having a clear height advantage over his defenders makes it extremely difficult for opponents to heavily contest his jumpers. This mismatch can make him an ideal threat on defensive switches once he reaches the pros.
This shooting stroke isn’t the only way Kabengele is able to generate points for himself. Using his 250-pound frame to his advantage, Kabengele has been a force near the basket on offense. Through bodying smaller defenders inside, he is able to create plenty of opportunities inside the paint, although his post moves need a lot of improvement.
Out in transition, Kabengele is able to create easy points rolling to the rim off defensive rebounds. This makes him a tantalizing partnership between himself and Hornets forwards Miles Bridges and Dwayne Bacon on fast breaks, which could result in some mesmerizing highlights. We may very well see a team as the Hornets who ranked seventeenth in transition points last year being able to crack the top-12 with this move.
In sum, Kabengele provides all the tools you would want from a frontcourt player. His fluid shooting ability allows an offense to stretch the floor, leading to more opportunities cutting inside. His NBA-ready frame also helps establish a clear size advantage over players near the cup. It establishes himself as an intriguing pick and roll player for the Hornets multitude of ball handlers.
Defensively speaking, Kabengele has shown some glimpses of what his uncle Dikembe Mutombo brought to the table. He has displayed the ability to reject shots near the rim and does an excellent job providing an interior authority to those wanting to drive inside.
Although he is on the shorter end compared to NBA centers, his high-motor attitude should provide a major spark to the Hornets interior. And, as we saw last season, the Hornets were mediocre when it came to interior defense. This cost the team in a big way, especially when matched up against post centers.
Weaknesses: Ball handling and passing
One key flaw in Kabengele’s game is his ball-handling ability. Often when on the perimeter, the big man has a tough time getting through defenders who smother him one-on-one. This causes him to either commit lousy turnovers or prevents him from setting himself up for a high-quality shot. Having a lack of shot creation may become a big problem over time as defenders would cause him to be on an “island” offensively, causing a miscue of play.
The lack of ball handling can be a key reason why his passing numbers have not been up to par. Not being able to establish his own shot means that Kabengele hoists up way too many ill-advised shots.
Being this trigger-happy can cause a lack of offensive flow, leading to fewer opportunities in finding an open man either cutting inside or being open off a screen. One interesting mark is that in 71 total games played in college, Kabengele has managed to assist on a meager 21 baskets.
Pro Comparison: Serge Ibaka
Kabengele fits the mold of current Raptors big man Serge Ibaka almost uniformly. Both have excellent shooting touch on all three levels of the court and the two have shown the ability to be a sheer rim protector in the painted area. Their height both with and without shoes are relatively the same which appoint them to similar situations out on the floor.
If the Hornets decide to trade back from the #12 slot or if he’s still available with the 36th overall selection, the Charlotte Hornets should definitely consider drafting Mfioundu Kabengele. He provides all the offensive tools that you want while also giving an interior presence that can help mold a new foundation defensively.
He is still considered a raw talent but at later in the draft, it is worth taking a chance on a player that has a proven track record at only 21 years of age.