Ismael Kamagate is a 6 foot 11 inches tall big man, and one of the more highly regarded international prospects in this draft class. He played for Paris Basketball in the LNB Pro A league for this past season. There he impressed enough people with his defensive instincts and shot blocking to be heralded as a draft prospect. He is currently mocked anywhere from the late first to the mid-second round, and is someone who meets a positional need for a backup center.
He doesn’t provide what Demarcus Cousins did this past season for the Nuggets — a post up big with playmaking chops, but significant gaps in mobility and vertical athleticism. He would instead provide an athletic roll man to Denver’s guards on one end of the floor and excellent shot blocking to help make up for Denver’s lack of paint defense on the other. You could make the argument that someone like that could be better than a more conventional back to the basket center for the Nuggets. Having personnel on the roster that could provide a different look than Nikola Jokic, and someone who could potentially play next to him against bigger lineups is an appealing idea.
The real question comes in the form of whether or not Denver should spend a draft pick on a backup center at pick 21. To me it is an interesting question, because while there are bigger needs on the roster, they’re needs that the team may feel more comfortable addressing with veterans. Whether in the form of free agency or trades, there are avenues the front office could take to determine the course they want to go down. Backup center may be something they want to address in the draft, because it’s a lower risk need than having a rookie try and sure up the perimeter defense right away.
Ismael Kamagate, Center, Paris Basketball
Wingspan: 7’3”-7’4” (didn’t measure at the combine, this is what has been reported though)
Weight: 220 lbs
Age: 21 (1/17/2001)
Season Per Game Statistics
2021-22 Paris Basketball Per Game Stats for Ismael Kamagate
|2021-22||Paris Basketball||LNB Pro A||34||27.1||4.4||6.8||0.643||0||0||4.4||6.8||0.643||2.6||3.9||0.654||2.4||3.9||6.3||0.7||0.7||1.6||1.7||1.8||11.3|
The biggest draw for Kamagate as an NBA prospect is his ability to block shots. He has a plus wingspan and the athleticism to be able to block shots with relative ease. He is able to utilize his wingspan and athleticism to block and alter shots very effectively. It would be impressive to do at a college level, but even more so given the fact he played in an international league. He was doing it against professional players at a young age.
Ismael Kamagate mainly played in drop coverage at Paris Basketball, but would occasionally find himself in space guarding smaller players, like guards or forwards. Here he would sometimes struggle to keep up with them, but had flashes of being able to keep with them stride for stride; ending in blocks. He had flashes of impressive discipline on the defensive end too, waiting for the right moment to get blocks instead of jumping at the first fake.
This clip exemplifies Kamagate’s ability to move his hips. He’s caught in transition and helps off his man to ice the ball handler. Despite his man having the advantage of already having downhill momentum, Kamagate is able to pick him up and move his hips well enough to put himself in a position to block the layup attempt.
Here’s another example of Kamagate being able to switch in spots. This time in a half-court setting, he does a good job of closing out on his man — not too hard but not sagging off enough to let him get off a shot. It forces his man to drive, and he beats him to his spot; cutting him off before even getting there. His man then tries to dribble away and get off a midrange shot, only to be met with Kamagate’s hand.
The last example I’ll provide for his shot blocking is to show his weak side rim protection. Out of a double the center passes to a guard on the perimeter. His teammate is able to provide some okay defense, but he gets blown by on a hopstep. Leaving just Kamagate between the ball and hoop. He does what he does best and helps off the dunker spot to send the shot into the baseline.
Pick and Roll Play
Ismael Kamagate’s offensive role was very limited at Paris. It’s for a fair reason — that being he’s very raw offensively. He doesn’t have many ball skills or a 3 point shot to speak of. So where they did use him was as a lob threat and pick and roll partner. He was a physical presence around the rim and created a lot of rim pressure. He can dunk on you with force. A few business decisions were made in France this season due to Kamagate. That’s not all he does though. He has had flashes of being a capable short roll passer. It wasn’t in abundance, but there were flashes of more to him than just running and dunking.
On top of all of that he sets good screens. It’s hard for guys to get skinny on screens set by him, and he’s mobile enough to rescreen effectively if they’re able to get by him. He isn’t going to knock guys over with screens, but he will set effective screens that get his partner some wiggle room.
Paris is running a set that involves Ismael Kamagate setting an off-ball screen on the weak side with a pick and roll being run on the strong side. The pick and roll draws attention from his man and he takes advantage of the lapse. He cuts and receives a lob that he throws down with power behind it.
Kamagate catches his partner’s man twice in this clip. On the first one, his partner gets a rhythm going and with another Kamagate rescreen, he sees enough light to let it fly. It’s something he shows a decent amount, and could really grow into having as a great part of his game at the next level.
So, I mentioned earlier that he had flashes of defensive discipline, and that was for good reason. He has a hard time staying completely focused on that end of things. He overly commits to helping off his man sometimes and can’t recover; or he gets too antsy on the perimeter and lets a faster player blow by him. There were flashes of being able to do well in those areas, but he is still a bit further away than you would like to see on that end of things.
He’s going to need to buckle in and get better at processing the game at a high level. Right now he sees things a step slow at times. It really hinders his NBA readiness right away. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got G-League assignments early on to help him along in his development as a defensive anchor for a bench unit. This is an area Denver would need to think about heavily before drafting Kamagate. Do they have time to do all that for someone who will end up playing 15-20 minutes a game? I’m not so sure.
Ismael Kamagate is playing a hedge coverage here. The purpose is to make the ball handler pass the ball, and the defense is successful in doing that. For this coverage to work though, either he needs to recover to his man well, or the defender in the corner needs to rotate. Neither happen and it leads to 2 free throws for the opposing team. He rotated late and it isn’t a rare occurrence for him.
He sometimes struggles to keep up with guards if he’s left in space with them, and in this possession he was left on an island against a quicker guard. He just plays too jittery and ends up giving little resistance to getting blown by. He has the athleticism and motor to be able to guard in situations like these, but he’s just not sure how to at the moment. With proper investment into his development he could become someone with the tools and know how on how to guard guys on the perimeter properly.
Right now Ismael Kamagate is someone who is very limited on what he can do offensively. He isn’t someone who is a good 3 point shooter. He has some midrange shooting in his arsenal, but his form looks clunky and I don’t see his jumper ever extending beyond the midrange. He should be able to shoot from the midrange semi-consistently, but he also doesn’t have many post moves or ball skills to speak of. Whoever does draft him shouldn’t expect a versatile offensive player.
He struggles when asked to post up, and here he just loses the ball. It’s not a super common occurrence for him to lose the ball, but it shows he’s not comfortable posting guys up right now. He isn’t able to establish himself by himself and will need others to set him up in the pick and roll, or through other means.
Projected Draft Range: Early to mid second round
Denver Stiffs Big Board: 22nd Overall
Ismael Kamagate certainly has interesting flashes to his game, and one of the best combinations of athleticism and motor in the 2022 NBA draft class. He’s someone with high upside and could definitely turn heads in a few seasons. His shot blocking and pick and roll play are both solid as of now, and can impact the game in ways that throw defenses different looks than the typical Nuggets offense.
However, he is still very raw and will take a couple seasons to be someone ready to be relied upon. He isn’t someone I would target at pick 21 if I were the Nuggets. If he were to drop into the second round, I would think about trying to trade for him. Right now though, he’s just too raw to contribute at the level that the Nuggets would need from someone at a backup center spot to be picked for the Nuggets at their current spot.