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2020 NBA Draft scouting report: Abdoulaye N’Doye

The Frenchman is back in the fray having withdrawn from last year’s draft

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Nanterre v Cholet - Jeep Elite Photo by Sandra Ruhaut/Icon Sport via Getty Images

In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we evaluate Abdoulaye N’Doye.

A year can make a big difference.

That was the general thinking of French point guard Abdoulaye N’Doye when he withdrew his name from contention from the 2019 NBA Draft, after not garnering the attention that would make one feel secure before making such a big decision.

That’s not to say N’Doye’s 2018-19 season — a season where the then 21-year old moved into a starting role in the top division in France with Cholet — was a poor one by any means, but N’Doye was, at best, a fringe second round pick. As a result, N’Doye opted to remain with Cholet for another season in order to “show my potential and progression,” N’Doye told The Athletic in March.

A year later, N’Doye is back, and he returns with a furthered reputation and a higher draft stock than he did a year ago.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic projects N’Doye as the 49th pick in a recent mock, while N’Doye ranks 40th on The Athletic’s latest big board. On ESPN’s ‘best available’ list, N’Doye is similarly rated: 39th overall. Sports Illustrated also mocks N’Doye as a second round selection, though, not as highly as The Athletic and ESPN, mocking N’Doye at 56th overall.

Vecenie also had this to say about N’Doye in his most recent mock (linked above):

This is N’doye’s draft-eligible year given that he turns 22 in May. He made the absolute most of it. He averaged 10.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists with over a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, while also shooting 52 percent from the field. While the volume is low, over the last two years, N’doye has also made 40.1 percent of his 112 3-point attempts. So there is at least some potential to work with. Oh yeah, he’s also 6-foot-7 now with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, meaning he has great size for an NBA wing, let alone a guard. He did it all for a good team, too, that likely would make the playoffs in France. I’ll have him higher on my personal board due to the defensive upside if he ever learns how to shoot it with volume. But for now, he seems like a good stash candidate.

No matter where you look, the majority of outlets project N’Doye as a second round selection, with some outlets being of the thought that N’Doye will not have to wait long in the lightening round to hear his name called.

The added year only added to N’Doye’s stock.

“I have grown mentally,” said N’Doye via The Athletic. “It is also an important year for me. We have a complementary team. I trust myself, and I have the opportunity to show it, so I just play my basketball without thinking.”

N’Doye’s increased production has been one of the reasons why more teams have the 22 year old Frenchman on their radar, averaging 10 points per game on 52% shooting from the field on seven attempts, 43% from three on 1.35 attempts, 75% from the free throw line on three attempts, four rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game, two turnovers and 1.2 steals in an average of 30.8 minutes per game for the season, per Real GM.

Encouragingly, these improvements came as Cholet increased his usage and his minutes per game output.

Something else that has entranced teams with N’Doye are his physical tools.

Standing at 6’7, N’Doye boasts a significant size advantage at his position, but add to that a 7’2 wingspan, and you can begin to see the initial appeal.

N’Doye uses this advantage in size and length in the area offensively where he thrives above all others.

N’Doye has a good touch on his runners/floaters (more so runners) but what helps him significantly is that he can just shooter over defenders, utilizing his size and length. Not only that, N’Doye gets off the ground well too, so he’s already got good clearance even before he extends.

(Before we get into some of the film, again, I am no expert when it comes to these. I simply write what I see, in what I can see. N’Doye also wears the number 11)

Take this possession as an example of N’Doye utilizing his size/length. As the shot clock is winding down, N’Doye gets himself to the baseline and as the clock is about to expire, he flips up a shot which finds the net for the score:

You can see the on the release that, despite the contest of the defender, that N’Doye was just able to hit the shot over the defender:

Let’s look at a few examples that are a little more conclusive than that one, that was just to get the ball rolling.

On this possession, N’Doye receives the ball, drives to his right into the space and into the paint. Once he gets there, N’Doye rises into his runner, which he makes:

Again, you can see how high N’Doye gets off of the ground and how he just shoots over players:

Here, N’Doye drives, whips out a quick left-to-right cross before getting into the paint and rising into a shot that, again, the defender is not going to be able to challenge:

Not that the defender did the most amazing job to contest this shot, but in his defense, even if he had, there’s no way it would’ve been effective...he’s just not reaching that high:

On this play, N’Doye drops the shoulder and uses his strength to create contact, unsettling the defender and providing N’Doye additional space to rise and hit his runner, again, with little resistance:

So long as he can get into the paint, it’s a shot N’Doye can almost always get, and he’s good at it too, flashing the ability to finish either hand:

The only real defense for it is to either to basically be up in N’Doye’s grill and hope you can either jump high enough or are long enough to try contest, or have the center step up and try challenge (which can leave holes elsewhere). Or, just hope N’Doye misses the shot, which is more often than not, not something that is going to happen (seeing as N’Doye shoots 54% on two-pointers).

N’Doye is also capable of using his size on the glass, helping create second chance opportunities for himself, where he averages just under one offensive rebound per game.

We’ll look at this more when it comes to defensive rebounding, but N’Doye can challenge very well on the glass, and obviously his size and length assist him in doing so, as he does here to score this second chance:

Even when some situations are disadvantageous for N’Doye, he can make things happen on the glass, such as on this possession where he is boxed out as the shot goes up, but he uses his size and length to get a hand in when the ball is set to land in the hands of the rebounder, procures possession of the ball himself and scores at the rim:

Not a basket, but the challenge on the rebound here from N’Doye helps create an extra possession for his team, coming out of bounds:

In general, the paint is the place where N’Doye is most effective offensively, but does have issues at times breaking the defense down himself off of the dribble.

That being said, he is capable.

On this possession, N’Doye drives by his man and draws the foul and the free throws (of which he takes three a game) as he’s fouled on the shot:

Again, N’Doye drives by his man and earns his free throws as the foul is committed by the help defense:

On this play, N’Doye receives the ball and gets the step on the defender, squeezing by on the drive before laying the ball in the hoop, plus the foul:

Let’s move onto three-point shooting.

The percentages are good, 43% on the season on 1.3 attempts. It’s interesting, because N’Doye attempted fewer three-pointers this season than he did last season, where he shot 38.5% on 2.2 attempts per game.

In the games I got to see of N’Doye, he only attempted (and made) one three-pointer:

You can kind of get a sense of how N’Doye would be able to shoot over defenders, especially at the point guard position.

There’s much to say about N’Doye’s potential three-point shooting in the NBA, but we’ll cover that near the end. Just know for now the numbers: very good efficiency but not a lot of volume. I will say for now I don’t believe he’s a 43% three-point shooter.

Let’s move on to the playmaking, where N’Doye averaged just under four assists per game.

We’ll look at some film but generally speaking I wasn’t massively impressed by N’Doye as a primary playmaker. It’s not that he was bad — he’s definitely a positive when it came to playmaking in general — but I just didn’t think he was especially stellar in a lead role, so to speak. I think he’s much better suited as a secondary playmaker, someone who doesn’t have to worry possession-in-possession-out about having to create/break down the defense. Cholet appeared to be better for matters offensively when Michael Stockton (who led the French league in assists) ran point and N’Doye played alongside him.

Let’s look at some film though, just a look at some playmaking off of drives, pick-and-rolls, half-court offense and some general feel clips. It’s also worth talking about N’Doye’s size and how that helps from a playmaking point of view. It’s difficult for opponents to defend a 6’7 point guard with long arms, making it challenging to prevent passes being made over the top of the defense.

On this action, N’Doye sees an extra body on the screen, leaving N’Doye’s teammate open in the paint, and N’Doye is able to patch through a pass over the defense, which leads to a secondary assist after the extra pass is made at the rim:

Cholet slipped quite a number of pick-and-rolls (something the Hawks love to do with John Collins, as an added note) and N’Doye found some success in this area.

Again on the screen, N’Doye sees an extra body, leaving his teammate to slip into the open space. N’Doye, again, sends the ball through over the the top for the assist as his teammate finishes with the dunk:

On this play, again, they slip the pick-and-roll only the defense is a little more conscious of the slip, back-pedalling at first before stepping up on N’Doye’s progression towards the paint before N’Doye finds his teammate for the assist:

On this play, N’Doye operates the pick-and-roll, gets into the paint where he almost surgically drops a pass out of the reach of the defender but also in a space where his teammate would be able to collect it, and finishes for the assist at the rim:

I can see that being interpreted both ways but I’m of the mind that N’Doye dropped it where he dropped it intentionally, as close as it was to a potential turnover.

On this possession, N’Doye does a nice job on the dribble — switching from his left hand to his right — to set the defender on the back-foot, opening an opportunity for N’Doye to nicely find his teammate behind the three-point line, who hesitates before attempting the three:

Again, N’Doye shows the ability to fluidly change hands as he finds his teammate in the corner for an assist on the corner three-pointer:

This next clip was one I enjoyed from N’Doye. He gets downhill, helped by a screen, stops on a dime and finds his trailing teammate for the assist on the runner:

Just looking at a few more general kinds of playmaking that aren’t exclusive to drives/pick-and-roll.

Here, N’Doye receives the ball behind the three-point line, waits for the defense to close out before dribbling past the oncoming defender, draws the defense and makes a nice, snap pass to his teammate for a good look at the baseline jumper attempt:

This next play combines a number of small facets from N’Doye. He starts by intercepting a pass for the steal, heads into the post — where he is faced with a smaller defender, so the help defense has to be close, which frees up someone else — makes the pass to the open teammate who is quickly closed down.

The ball goes back to N’Doye, who gets into the paint and draws a crowd before passing to his open teammate. Strasbourg make the rotation and close the shooter down, forcing a pass to N’Doye, who finds his open teammate for an open shot which is missed:

Although the final shot of that possession was pretty open, give Strasbourg credit — a number of shot opportunities could’ve taken place beforehand but their rotations were solid. The takeaway there was how N’Doye was at the heart of that play, a play that could’ve resulted in a few different shots that would’ve come about in different ways.

On this next play, N’Doye brings the ball up the court and Cholet run a nice play where a screen is set for an off-ball player, who loops in behind the screen, forcing the opposing big to have to backtrack in order to avoid an open run to the rim. N’Doye then rejects the screen to his right, gets into the paint, draws a crowd and fires a pass to the corner for a three-point attempt:

The pass may have been a little off in the end, as the shooter had to reach out and bring the ball back in before shooting, allowing the defender a chance to make the shooter have to rush the shot.

N’Doye possesses a good assist/turnover ratio and a low amount of turnovers for someone as involved in the offense N’Doye is, so turnovers weren’t too frequent to find when I was watching him, but a few did creep up — more so on drives than errant passes.

Just for a few examples, N’Doye drives inside and as he makes his pass to the corner, he runs into the defender and is called for the offensive foul:

Again on the drive towards the rim — this time in transition — N’Doye barrels into the defender and N’Doye is called for the offensive foul:

Let’s move onto defense, things get interesting here. Arguably, there’s more to talk about here than anything else.

Again, we’re going to start with size because that is the general attraction when it comes to N’Doye as a prospect: his size at this position.

At 6’7, N’Doye is a versatile defender who can switch. It probably goes without saying that he finds himself switching onto wings but also forwards and even centers in some spots when the situation calls for it — and he can hold his own for a possession or two in these situations.

On this possession, N’Doye finds himself switched onto the center in what would appear to be a pretty disadvantageous situation but the key is that in these situations, N’Doye works hard, and in this instance, he stretches to deflect this ball out of bounds, allowing his team to set up once again:

Again, N’Doye gets switched onto the big but this time hustles to get in front of him and as the pass is made inside, N’Doye is able to use his size and length to knock the ball out of bounds:

Here, N’Doye switches onto the big out of the pick-and-roll and when the pass is made to the big, N’Doye rises and is more than equal to shot, blocking it and returning possession to his team:

Of course, this doesn’t always go to plan, and sometimes there are situations where, as you might expect, the big wins, such as on this play where N’Doye doesn’t position himself well on this switch and is forced to foul to prevent a certain bucket:

Now, will this ability to switch onto bigs translate to the NBA? Well, I suppose it depends. Maybe not against NBA centers but against power forwards and small-ball centers? It’s a possibility. Size and length usually translate, so perhaps this could be a very interesting aspect of N’Doye’s game (and we’ll get to talking more about that later).

Of course this ability to switch isn’t just exclusive to just bigs.

Here, N’Doye shows that he’s ready to switch on multiple occasions, on guards and bigs while also making sure the ball-handler he switched onto didn’t get a look in the paint:

Sadly for Cholet, it ended up in a three-point basket conceded, but N’Doye certainly did his bit.

Nothing major here, but N’Doye prevents the fastbreak score and makes a snap switch to prevent a three-point shot, before the ball is moved inside for the basket, which had little to do with N’Doye:

N’Doye does, in general, move pretty well defensively and that, in tandem with his size and strength at his position, allows him to become a pretty versatile defender — something a lot of NBA teams should covet.

But added to this size is, of course, N’Doye’s length, which he puts to good use.

We’ve talked about how N’Doye can switch onto bigs and fight there on a few possessions, but he can also mix it up on the glass too.

Here, N’Doye contests the rebound with the opposing big and reaches to secure the rebound, which allows N’Doye to bring the ball up the court and get into a half-court set:

N’Doye uses his length to contest shots well too.

On the out of bounds play, N’Doye makes the rotation and helps contest the shot at the rim which is missed:

On this possession, N’Doye does well to get around the screen to contest the shot and help force an airball:

Speaking of getting around screens, this next clip was one I really enjoyed. In a disadvantageous situation after a screen, N’Doye is able to make up for the lost ground with his length and helps forces a miss:

N’Doye has the potential to create a little bit of havoc defensively, averaging over a steal per game and helping force some turnovers. On this possession, for example, N’Doye provides multiple efforts and ends up forcing the turnover as he flashes his active hands:

This all sounds wonderfully positive but there are a few issues, one large one in particular.

Generally when it comes to these, I watch all the footage I can first and then read what others say, usually to see if what they say was lining up with what I saw, and usually the takeaways are similar.

There was an area defensively where things struggled to line up. I saw in one or two spots that sticking with drives defensively was one of N’Doye strengths and I just didn’t see that in what I saw. Against smaller point guards who showed some pace, it just looked, at times, he just couldn’t keep up.

On this play, the offensive player drives and N’Doye ends up in a position where, when the shot goes up, he’s in no position to do anything reasonable about it, and the help defense has to come over, committing the foul and conceding two free throws:

Here, N’Doye extends the pressure on the ball-handler but is easily driven by and the help defense has to commit the foul:

Now, N’Doye was moving his feet well enough there but perhaps shouldn’t be in a losing position on that possession. Maybe his length could’ve helped him if a shot attempt at the rim took place, but the foul was committed before that could happen.

On this play, N’Doye is beaten a little easily on the drive, leading to a score at the rim:

I understand that he has to wait to see if the ball-handler uses or, in this case, rejects the screen, but N’Doye is beaten here and pace present in shorter point guards than him are a potential problem.

Another issue — and this wasn’t exclusive to defense — was that N’Doye was a little passive, a little aloof, at times when he was off of the ball...didn’t always look interested or focused. I don’t think it’s too big of an issue but it was something noteworthy I noticed when I was watching N’Doye.

Let’s try and land this thing, because there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to N’Doye.

He’s a bit of a tough evaluation, mostly because of his size and the position he plays, and how he might fit in the NBA.

Off the top, It is probably safe to assume that N’Doye is going to be drafted, whether that’s in the second round or if a playoff team wants to take him late in the first round — someone is selecting him. It’s also worth mentioning N’Doye’s age — he just turned 22 after all, so you’re not exactly getting the youngest prospect in the draft, but you are getting one who already has experience in a professional league over a couple of years. This is something many don’t seem to appreciate: productivity in a professional league at a young age.

Whether that team decides to bring him over immediately or not is another thing, and that’s harder than ever to try and predict but for the sake of simplicity in writing a conclusion and not dealing with a thousand ‘If he’s brought over’s, I’m going off of the basis that he’s coming over.

Next comes figuring out what N’Doye’s potential role to be in the NBA.

I’m unsure if he’s going to be a high-calibre NBA starter but backup point guard/guard would certainly be plausible. That would be my view on his ceiling — a role player who can help your team in many different ways and plug many different holes — one who is versatile on both ends of the floor. A player like that has tremendous value.

When it comes to N’Doye’s offense as a whole, those floaters and runners are by far the best aspect of his game offensively right now.

My worry is that, in the NBA, everyone is bigger, everyone is longer, everyone is quicker and everyone is stronger — how much of that can N’Doye overcome? How much will the NBA defense mitigate his efficient offense inside? How big of a hit will the efficiency take?

Elsewhere, the three-point shooting percentages are good but the volume worries me slightly. If he ends up taking over three or four three-pointers a game, what’s the drop off in percentage? Down to 38 percent, 36 percent? It’s a big question, because I’m sure the team drafting N’Doye will want him to shoot more than one per game, especially given his current percentages — teams are going to want to see what the story is on a higher volume. If the shooting translates, it might end up making more sense that N’Doye could play the wing positions, especially given his size.

If that happens, it will increase his value in the league tenfold and all of a sudden you have a player who can shoot threes, handle the ball on some possessions, run pick-and-roll, can score some inside and can defend multiple positions. Doors to starting roles begin to open too.

This leads nicely into something else when it comes to N’Doye as a prospect that needs addressing: where is he going to play in the NBA? Because, if N’Doye plays the 1, then perhaps he can make good use of his size and length, and that part of his game could perhaps translate (maybe not ‘54% from two translate’). If he’s more deployed as two (which I think is a lot more possible than him primarily being deployed at the 1), it’s going to be more difficult for N’Doye to utilize his size and it obviously becomes less of an advantage.

N’Doye, from my understanding, sees himself as a point guard (referenced in that piece by Jeff Greer of The Athletic) but I believe that he is best suited a secondary playmaker, and teams are going to want to morph him into a 3-and-D player. His size limits his burst somewhat, and his ability to break down the defense off of the dribble isn’t to the highest, and that’s only to become more of a problem in the NBA. N’Doye appeared to fare better as a secondary playmaker next to Michael Stockton this season, or, translated: N’Doye fared better with someone else who could help create offense.

What worries me, however, when it comes to N’Doye playing point guard is defense. NBA point guards are quick, and I worry about N’Doye’s ability to keep some of the quicker ones in front of him.

Defensively is where things are interesting with N’Doye — versatility is the name of the game here. While I do worry about his ability to guard quick point guards off the dribble, it doesn’t change the fact that N’Doye can switch onto basically any position (with the exception of NBA center, I think that’s a little much) and he’ll provide effort, while his wingspan and active hands can make up for deficits in other areas.

N’Doye showed his versatility in his ability to basically defend all five positions in France. It’s this versatility that N’Doye wants to sell himself on.

“I can defend all positions,” N’Doye told The Athletic.

I have some reservations on how this will translate in the NBA, but I think it’s easy to imagine that N’Doye will be a player who can defend multiple positions, which will appeal nicely to teams.

Overall, I really like Abdoulaye N’Doye. I think it’s absolutely worth spending a second round pick on him, and I actually think it might be worth examining him if you’re a playoff team with a late pick in the first round. If things pan out perfectly, you have a player who can shoot threes, play multiple positions on offense, has good size, good strength, long and can play multiple positions on defense — tough to get that in one player.

There are, of course, issues with N’Doye — his casualness at times, the concern about defending point guards, his potential offensive ceiling to name a few — I’m not denying those, but I certainly think there’s a lot to like.

There’s a lot to like...