Patrick Hayes at Piston Powered has already highlighted a recent workout Bismack Biyombo’s agents held for NBA GMs and scouts, and all reports indicate it was a mini disaster. As someone driving the Biyombo Bandwagon (TM), I was certainly discouraged that he performed so poorly shooting the ball. Even more worrisome to me, however, is that he showed very poor hands. As any Ben Wallace fan can tell you, it’s not so important that he can’t hit a jumpshot to save his life because he has good hands around the basket, which allow him to corral rebounds, accepts passes from cutting guards and not give up possessions with costly turnovers. Pistons fans, of course, have also seen the polar opposite in the guise of Kwame Brown. Even in a bad draft, you surely don’t want the Pistons selecting the next Kwame Brown, but a new article, where the title of this post comes from, goes at great length to explain who Bismack Biyombo, the player and the person, comes from. ESPN’s Chad Ford doesn’t gloss over the shortcomings, but he also talk about how a supposedly 18-year-old kid born in the Congo and playing in Spain rocked up NBA draft boards so quickly. I’ll just highlight a few of my favorite passages, but you should definitely read the whole thing. It’s illuminating.
When he talks, he sounds like a wise, old traveler … not the 18-year-old he claims to be.
“I was born on August 28, 1992,” he tells me several times. He repeats the date several times in the interview.
But ask NBA scouts — any NBA scout — and they’ll tell you he’s closer to 22 than 18. They have no proof, mind you. He just looks, sounds, acts and plays older, they claim.
I understand the feeling. Everything about Biyombo sounds and feels older. But his life experiences might explain that. He’s not a coddled AAU star. He grew up in a culture that demands that you fend for yourself at a very young age.
Biyombo began playing for Fuenlabrada’s junior team, but he wasn’t satisfied with the competition. He says he called the coach of the third-division team and asked him whether he could practice with that team as well.
“The coach came up to me right after practice and told me, ‘You are not going to play anymore with the junior team. You are going to skip the fourth division. You are going to play with me,'” Biyombo said.
The next year, Biyombo ended up playing for both the third- and fourth-division teams. On Saturday, he’d play third-division games and, then on Sunday, fourth-division games. To keep up with both teams, he’d sometimes have to practice four times a day.
At the end of the season, Crespo asked Biyombo whether he wanted to go home to his family for the summer. Biyombo told him that he wanted to stay and get better. He no longer felt challenged in the third division. His goal was to move up to the first division of the ACB the next season.
Biyombo ended his contract with Fuenlabrada and began working out in Vitoria in preparation for the draft. A number of teams have made the trip. Most walk away impressed — not so much with the workouts, but with the personal interview.
“He’s one of the most impressive young men I’ve met this year,” one GM said. “He won’t blow you away in a workout because he’s the type of player who just plays basketball. He needs to be in a game. But in his interview? Wow. He had a high level of maturity and he’s driven to succeed. He’s not ready, but I have no doubt he’ll put in the work he needs to be a winner.”
Wallace isn’t the sort of sexy comparison that agents love to make. Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnett sells high lottery picks. Not Big Ben.
But it’s the classic mistake often made at this time of the year. With prospects trying to prove to scouts that they’re better than their scouting reports, their agents typically become obsessed with their weaknesses instead of their strengths. Biyombo might have been shooting the ball better, but by NBA standards (and they are the gold standard), he’s a terrible shooter.
Had they run a workout in which they planted Biyombo in the paint and had various guards attack the basket, Biyombo indeed would have looked like the next Wallace. Even in limited playing time, his 2.3 blocks per game led the ACB this past season.
Regardless, most scouts seem unfazed by the workout. Some claim he looked better in Spain. Others blame nerves and the structure of the workout. A few are concerned about his hands, his feel. Everyone is still intrigued.
“He didn’t play very well,” one veteran NBA scout said. “But I didn’t expect him to in that environment and with that workout. It really showed off his weaknesses, but they are weaknesses we already knew he had. I do worry about his hands. I worry about turnovers. I’m not sure how great a feel he has for the game on the offensive end. But you can’t hide his strengths, either. We know what he could be, and it’s very, very attractive. If he is who he’s portraying himself to be, he’s got a chance to be in the NBA for a long time.”
Said one GM: “He can play in the NBA right now. If you understand what he is and what he isn’t, and you’re OK with that, then I think he’s a very safe pick. Defense helps win championships. Ben Wallace and Tyson Chandler don’t score, but they help their teams in so many ways. If you value defense, length and drive, I think it’s hard not to like him. Maybe love him.”
And that last comment is why I am still on the Bismack Biyombo bandwagon. I see no problem with him being in the mold of a Tyson Chandler or Ben Wallace, especially in a poor draft class. They are players that help teams win. They are players that lift a defense from below average to superb. They are players that would greatly complement emerging star Greg Monroe. They are players that don’t need plays run for them and would allow Stuckey, Gordon, Daye and Villanueva to flourish on the offensive end while covering up for some of their defensive liabilities.
And as the piece makes clear, he is a player driven to succeed and work hard. If Detroit is serious about bringing back the lunch pail attitude that its lost the last few years, if new owner Tom Gores is committed to bringing in players that want to work and will lose just as much sleep about turning around the Detroit Pistons as he is then Biyombo is that player.