Bismack Biyombo

Leading up to Draft Night on June 23, we’re going to profile the eight prospects that we feel are most likely to be on the Raptors’ radar for the fifth overall pick. Going alphabetically, Bismack Biyombo is up first.

Height: 6’9″
Weight: 240 lbs.
Date of Birth: August 28, 1992
Likely NBA Position: PF/C

In a draft class filled with question marks, Bismack Biyombo might be the biggest enigma of all. A relative unknown before he played for the World Select Team at the Nike Hoop Summit in April, Biyombo announced his arrival as a legitimate NBA prospect by recording the first triple-double (12 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocks) in Hoop Summit history and breaking Kevin Garnett’s Hoop Summit record for blocks.

Biyombo’s physical attributes are beyond impressive. He carries a muscular 240 pounds on his six-foot-nine frame and his seven-foot-seven wingspan defines “freakish”. With that length, it’s worth considering whether or not he can play center in the NBA — after all, you don’t block shots with your head.

There’s no question that Biyombo has one of the rawest skillsets among the likely lottery picks in this year’s draft, but the bigger concern might be the legitimacy of his Congolese birth certificate. He was supposedly born in 1992, but some scouts suspect that he might actually be in his 20s. He certainly doesn’t look like a teenager, but that doesn’t mean much considering the recent examples of LeBron James’ and Greg Oden’s appearances as 18-year-olds.

Is Bismack Biyombo potentially the next Serge Ibaka, or will he be a bust like Hasheem Thabeet? Nobody can know for certain but for a team desperate to upgrade their defensive intensity like the Raptors, Biyombo is impossible to overlook.

What impresses you most about Biyombo?

Scott Carefoot: There’s no question in my mind that he has the potential to be an impact player in the NBA with his elite combination of size, wingspan and athleticism. His buyout clause with Spanish club Fuenlabrada is reported to be a very reasonable one million Euros, and with a NBA lockout likely on the horizon, he can stay in Spain for a while and develop his game. He would probably be a reach at the fifth overall pick in almost any other draft, but his seemingly unlimited upside would create a lot of excitement among Raptors fans if Bryan Colangelo takes a chance on him.

Holly MacKenzie: What doesn’t impress me about Biyombo is probably a better question. Seemingly out of nowhere — at least with respect to being a lottery pick in this year’s draft–, this 18-year-old prospect introduced himself to us all when he dominated the Nike Hoop Summit this past April. Recording the first triple-double in Hoop Summit history — and breaking Kevin Garnett’s record for blocks in a game– Biyombo is exciting, intriguing and freakishly athletic. When you start throwing around comparisons to Serge Ibaka, I’m down. Obviously, the most impressive thing about Biyombo is his body. He’s got a 7-foot-7 wingspan despite standing just over 6-foot-7. That’s insanity. It’s also the fifth longest wingspan recorded in the database over at Draft Express. With that wingspan, Biyombo is all over the glass. With his athleticism, he’s got a ton of potential and in a weak draft without a lot of sure things, you want as much potential as you can find.

What’s more, though, is Biyombo’s maturity. Say what you will about his age, what we do know as fact is that Biyombo has leadership qualities and a good head on his shoulders. He wants to succeed at the highest level and his leadership qualities were on full display at the Hoop Summit where he looked, acted and sounded much more put together than your typical 18 year-old. Of course, this has led to suspicion about his age, but let’s just take him at his word and assume he’s a wickedly smart, aware and mature 18 year old.

Joseph Casciaro: There’s a lot to like about Biyombo’s game, but if I had to pick one thing, it would definitely be his length. We’re talking about a 6’9″ kid with an incredible 7’7″ wingspan. That length is the source of his phenomenal defensive instincts and abilities, including his shot-blocking and rebounding. And while his offensive game is still a work in progress, to say the least, his length makes it easy for him to rack up easy points around the basket. If Biyombo gets the ball with a clear view of the rim and little space separating him from it, just get your cameras ready and expect an exciting finish.

What are your biggest concerns about Biyombo’s NBA prospects?

Scott Carefoot: There are a lot of “unknowns” about Biyombo. How far away are his basketball skills from the NBA level? Is he willing and able to play center? Is he really 18 years old? There won’t be any sure things available at the Raptors’ pick, but I don’t know how Raptors fans will handle it if this franchise manages to whiff on yet another lottery pick.

Holly MacKenzie: Biggest concern is obviously that there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to Biyombo. Also, he’s raw. Like, really, really raw offensively. While he gets comparisons to Ibaka, that’s on the defensive end of the floor. Despite being very limited offensively, he’s 18. He has a 7-foot-7 wingspan. He’s got a a 243-pound frame and has less than 5-percent body fat. He’s got great timing and good basketball instincts. I can sacrifice passing skills and a honed offensive game at this point. I couldn’t sacrifice desire and work ethic and I don’t think you have to worry about either when it comes to Biyombo.

Joseph Casciaro: Obviously, everyone is going to be talking about the “unknowns” with Biyombo over the next month or so. I get it – he’s from Congo and there is little information out there on his development and what not. But at the end of the day, it’s not like he’s playing in Congo right now or playing in a league with no eyes on him. He’s playing in what many consider the best league in the world outside of the NBA (ACB), or at least one of the best. And he’s more than shown he belongs when given the opportunity in that league and in the Nike Hoops Summit. Another concern would be his real age, with some alarming reports/rumours saying he could be as old as 26. However, according to Draft Express, a bone age study confirmed that Biyombo is as young as advertised. If the off-court issues are put to rest, then I can focus on the on-court concern, which is his offence. From everything I’ve read and seen of Biyombo in small snippets, if he’s not dunking, he’s probably not scoring.

How good of a fit do you think Biyombo would be on the Raptors?

Scott Carefoot: If he can play center, then he’s exactly the type of player this franchise needs to revitalize its beleaguered defense. If he’s best-suited to play power forward in this league, then this pick wouldn’t make a ton of sense considering that Ed Davis probably has that position locked down for at least the next few seasons. While I understand that you should typically draft the best player available instead of drafting for need in the NBA, power forward is the one position it makes sense for Colangelo to avoid in this draft — particularly when considering a relative longshot like Biyombo.

Holly MacKenzie: How many times this season have you heard Raptors fans salivate over a player like Ibaka? An athletic big man who can run the floor, block shots and play defense? Make my heart sing a little more, would you? It’s exciting just to think about. Of course, Biyombo’s height is a bit of a concern. Despite that 7-foot-7 wingspan, he’s still a 6-foot-7 guy, so it’ll be interesting to see where he plays on the floor. If he can play the five-spot, awesome. In a draft with a lot of maybes, Biyombo is one gamble I’m completely cool with taking. I can’t help it. Biyombo had me at the Ibaka comparisons.

Joseph Casciaro: How many times over the last year have you heard Raptors fans, and basketball fans in general, rave about Serge Ibaka? While Biyombo is a relative unknown, the fact is that he has the physical tools and natural ability (and a very similar build to Ibaka) to become a very similar player to his countryman. Biyombo will need some time in the NBA before anything grand should be expected of him, but his professional experience in Spain should speed up his development. If he can develop into the NBA big man that many envision, then I think his length and athleticism make him a perfect fit for the young and athletic Raptors. Yes, it would be a gamble to take him with the fifth overall pick, but really, there’s probably one can’t-miss player in this draft, and you could say the rest are all gambles.