2019 NBA Draft: Top 5 boom-or-bust candidates

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images /
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4. Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State

Height: 6’10” | Weight: 256 | Age: 21

One of the biggest risers during the lead-up to the 2019 NBA Draft, Mfiondu Kabengele has a ton of helium to his name. Despite being relatively unknown prior to last season, Kabengele has shot up big boards thanks to his jumping ability, power and nifty big man skills.

Crazier still? Kabengele wasn’t a starter at FSU, and in his two years there, only averaged 14.8 and 21.6 minutes per game, respectively. Nevertheless, he was perhaps the standout athlete and baller on a team full of NBA-level athletes.

Despite his low minutes total, Kabengele put up 22.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game against the ACC, perhaps the best conference in college basketball. While his frame will have no problems in the low post, he can step out and hit 3s too. He shot 36.9 percent on 1.8 attempts per game to go along with a 76.1 percent free throw mark on more than four attempts a game. He can shoot and score without having plays drawn up for him.

Some downsides? First, Kabengele turns 22 in August, which will make him “old” by rookie standards. Additionally, he wore knee braces on both knees in college, which worried NBA front offices. While the fact that he is moving up big boards and may be taken top-20 likely shows that his knees checked out, big men bodies break down much more often than guards and wings, so any sign of potential wear-and-tear already is a bit alarming.

Kabengele can hold his own on defense, but he is far from the quickest center out there and when FSU did try to get him extended minutes, fouling too often proved to be an issue.

Still, for a sophomore who doesn’t actually have that many reps, Kabengele is an NBA athlete with NBA skills. In the past, a lot of the fast risers on draft night who did not have extensive backgrounds have underperformed their pick, but Kabengele has the various skills necessary to be a top-10 center in the league if his knees hold up. The risk-reward balance relies entirely on when he is drafted, as right now his projected range is anywhere from 12-35.