Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This report focuses on Western Kentucky big man Charles Bassey.
Charles Bassey was a top-20 high school recruit for 2018, with ESPN ranking him higher than notable prospects Coby White and Tyler Herro. Rick Stansbury struck gold in landing the 6’11” native of Nigeria, undeniably the best recruit in Western Kentucky Hilltoppers history.
Bassey’s production was far from minuscule. He was voted All-Conference USA First Team after averaging 14.6 points on 62.7% shooting, 10 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game with a 45% mark from beyond the arc and 77% on free throws. Bassey is one of nine freshmen to earn First Team C-USA honors, with others including Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and Dajuan Wagner. We’re talking about the only collegiate freshman since the early 90’s to put up the numbers that he did.
So why is he a mid-2nd round prospect in this draft?
It’s important to go ahead and clarify that the 45% three-point clip came via just 20 attempts from distance. His jumper is a bit funky and he’s much better suited shooting midrange jumpers, which he did at about 40% last year. Bassey is an attacker of the rim with great physical upside. He’s athletic in running the floor and positions himself well on the low block, resulting in him shooting 77.4% at the rim.
Bassey loves to utilize a hook over his left shoulder in the post, which utilizes his 7’3 wingspan. He’s lengthy, physical and moves well off the ground. He’s very quick in adjusting his body after a post feed. There isn’t wasted movement in this regard and he transitions from collecting a pass to turning and hitting a layup rather seamlessly. While that’s great for posting up, it also makes him highly efficient as a roll man, where he shot over 60%.
There is an oddity with Bassey’s numbers. With all the great efficiency he attempted just 8.8 shots per game. This tends to happen to certain good players that just aren’t conditioned well enough to play long minutes, but Bassey played 31.4 minutes per game. Whether it came from live-game commentators or coaches, there always seemed to be someone talking about how Bassey just wasn’t getting the ball enough.
Inevitably, Bassey has issues getting himself open in the half-court. He does a good job sealing off defenders down low and going up to grab high passes. It was really interesting to see some teams run a box zone to close him off from the post and he wouldn’t be able to do much against it. This is an issue for a lot of big men and a big part of the reason why guards and wings are so much more heavily sought-after in today’s NBA; it takes work to get the ball to a big man, whereas a guard or wing can bring it up themselves and not rely on a teammate to feed them.
Bassey will rarely hover past the three-point line. In fact, he just doesn’t move much without the ball at all. When he’s not near the rim, Bassey will operate from the elbows a bit or try and set up pick-and-roll. He obviously works efficiently setting ball screens, but he doesn’t set off-ball screens. In a league predicated by ball movement, a big part of that is setting elbow screens and backdoor screens for cutters. In all fairness, that could have to do with inferior collegiate coaching, but when a big isn’t rotating offensively, it leads to pure stagnation.
Bassey also has a bad case of great shot blocking, horrendous off-ball defense. He was the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year for his conference-leading block totals but would be a fish out of water when it comes to switching. He has the length and timing to be an effective NBA rim protector but also tends to chase blocks when he doesn’t have to. There is an underrated mental aspect of shot blocking when it comes to when a big should come off his man and play help and when he needs to just box out.
As it stands now, Bassey is a type of player that just isn’t difficult for NBA teams to find. A bit reminiscent of Kevon Looney, there are certain lineups and situations where he can play a role but that role would have to be crafted for him. Things change if he can increase his three-point volume and become impactful off the ball, or if he has a Mitchell Robinson-esque breakout defensively.
All in all, Bassey will take time to develop in the league, but in a league where the relative value of non-star centers is so low, is there a team out there willing to give him that time to grow his game?