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Usman Garuba Scouting Report
Usman Garuba is probably that guy who gets picked in the draft, and the fans go nuts because they’ve never heard of the guy. If you follow the NBA Draft, you know that this happens at least once per year, and it’s usually by the New York Knicks. I’m not saying that this will happen with Garuba, but there is a good chance that he’s the guy that nobody has heard of.
Garuba still has not declared for the 2020 draft and could be a 2021 prospect. Regardless of what year he gets selected in, Garuba shows tremendous promise as a mobile big in the NBA. Let’s dive into what Usman Garuba brings to the table.
— AfroBallers (@afroballers) October 31, 2019
Height: 6 foot 8
Weight: 230 lbs
Wingspan: 7 foot 0
Garuba’s biggest strength as an NBA prospect is his ability to get up and down the floor. Garuba has a high motor and will be a factor in transition as a rim-runner. In the modern NBA era, where pace and space is the way to play, Garuba’s mobility will have general managers drooling.
Once he gets the ball in transition, Garuba plays above the rim. His incredibly long wingspan gives him a massive catch radius, so he can receive a pass that isn’t entirely accurate. He is also an outstanding athlete for his size, so he’ll likely finish above the rim and finish over defenders when rim-running.
Garuba isn’t the most refined offensive product, so he’ll have to excel at things like offensive rebounding if he wants to play on an NBA roster. Currently, Garuba only plays a handful of minutes per game with Real Madrid in the Euroleague so it would be hard to judge his offensive rebounding potential off his stats. Instead, let’s take a look at his Per 36 minutes stats from this year. The Per 36 minute metric normalizes his stats to show what his numbers would be if he played 36 minutes.
Using a Per 36 minute measurement, Garuba would grab 3.2 OREB per game, which is pretty good considering how young he is. If he played in the NBA this year, he would have more offensive rebounds per game than Anthony Davis, DeAndre Ayton, Nikola Jokic, and many other big men who average double-digit rebounds. Very impressive.
Usman does a nice job reading the floor offensively, and that’s most likely because of his experience in the Euroleague. European prospects are usually far more advanced when it comes to IQ and complex basketball concepts.
Ball side, Garuba does a great job getting to his spots. He will usually start on the low-block, and depending on where the ball goes, he shifts. He can pop out to the mid-range and sometimes the three-point line for an open shot if his defender commits; although, it is infrequent that he does so. His rotations will usually be towards the basket, just opposite of the ball.
When he’s on the weak side, Garuba does an excellent job slipping behind the defense to the basket or finding the blind spot of the defense. Multiple times you can see Garuba’s defender playing in help defense getting burned backdoor and Usman gets an easy dunk.
Garuba’s floor awareness is already good for his age, which should help him ease into the NBA game more quickly. To really improve this aspect of his game; however, he will need to develop a more consistent jump shot. Once he is a threat from the outside, he’ll be able to space the floor very effectively from anywhere on the floor.
Garuba isn’t much of a scorer. He will definitely need to improve this aspect of his offensive game at the next level. Garuba isn’t a great ball-handler, so attacking the basket isn’t something that he does very often with Real Madrid. He’ll need to get better facing up to the basket to score and beat his defenders off the dribble.
Usman can shoot the three and the mid-range, but he’s not that capable yet. He has proper shooting mechanics and is a decent catch and shoot guy, but to be an impact guy in the NBA, he has to be more consistent. This is definitely the area where he’ll need to improve most when he gets to the NBA; otherwise, he’ll be labelled an offensive liability.
Garuba’s most appealing trait as a prospect is his length on the defensive end. His ability to block shots at the rim and use his length to disrupt passing lanes elevates the entire team’s defense. Although he is undersized at only 6 foot 8, Garuba’s 7-foot wingspan helps him cover ground and excel as a weakside defender. Garuba is athletic and has excellent anticipation skills around the rim. His per 36-minute stats show that he would average around one block per game.
Furthermore, Usman uses his length to deflect passes and disrupt passing lanes. His per 36-minute stats with Real Madrid last year reveals that he would average over 2.5 steals per game. This would lead the NBA in 2020.
Along the perimeter, Garuba isn’t a great defender, but he is better than most traditional big men. He has quick feet for a big and is very athletic. This allows him to guard the pick and roll quite well and does not allow for mismatches against quick guards. Garuba’s speed and athleticism will bode very well for the modern NBA.
Garuba’s IQ as a team defender is very good for how young he is. His rotations are quick and timely, and he shows innate attention to detail. He is excellent as a weakside defender and rim protector and has sound footwork down low. He uses his length to get in passing lanes, and although he may have some defensive lapses, overall he does a really good job playing solid team defense.
As an individual defender, Garuba’s length and speed causes all kinds of problems for smaller players. Against opposing bigs, Garuba’s athleticism and wingspan create all sorts of issues as well. He reads pick and roll’s well, he communicates, and he contributes on defense. Garuba is a strong defensive prospect.
Player Comparison: Bismack Biyombo
Like Biyombo, Garuba is an undersized big with great length, athleticism, and the potential to be a defensive anchor and rebounding machine. Garuba already has better shooting mechanics, and a more fluid jump shot than Biyombo does with similar defensive instincts. Biyombo was a flash in the pan but made a good career for himself in the NBA. Garuba will have the opportunity to do what Biyombo did and more if he develops a consistent jump shot.
Garuba may not enter the 2020 NBA Draft, so it’s hard to say which team will pick him because we don’t know what the outlook of next season will be. However, if we had to assume he gets drafted this year, I think that he will be chosen anywhere from pick 11-25 in the first round.
San Antonio Spurs
As it stands right now, the Spurs have the 11th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and I can see them taking a project player like Garuba early. It is no secret that Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are the best franchise when it comes to developing raw talent. They can turn a player with limited potential into someone who excels in their role.
If the Spurs take Garuba, they will be adapting to a more modern NBA with a mobile big man. Lamarcus Aldridge will be heading into the last year of his deal, and an aging, mid-range shooting big man isn’t the way to go in today’s era. I think that the Spurs will develop Garuba into a nice player who can play in the high-pick and roll, provide ample second chance opportunities by crashing the offensive glass, and eventually space the floor by knocking down a consistent jump shot.
The Spurs would be an excellent landing spot for Usman.
Through a flurry of trades with various teams, Danny Ainge somehow managed to get another first-round pick that doesn’t belong to Boston. The Celtics have the 17th pick in the draft this year, and I would not be shocked if they took Garuba.
The Celtics have three solid wing-players, two very good guards, and… Enes Kanter down low? To say that they are weak in the interior is an understatement. To be legitimate contenders in the eastern conference, the Celtics have to get a big to at least contain guys like Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, Bam Adebayo, and Domantas Sabonis. Kanter and Theis simply won’t cut it come playoff time.
Garuba would be a good fit for the Celtics because he won’t demand the ball on offense, and instead, will complement the Celtics scorers; Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown. Garuba will most likely be asked to set good screens, clean up misses, and provide second chance opportunities.
Defensively, the Celtics would get the defensive anchor in the interior that they’ve been looking for. Usman would protect the paint on the defensive end, and with some more experience and muscle gain, he would be the perfect guy to contain opposing bigs. Garuba is a project, but he fits the Celtics perfectly.
Portland Trail Blazers
Hassan Whiteside’s contract is up at the end of this season, so the Blazers have a glaring hole at Center. Garuba could be precisely what they’re looking for to fill their need. It makes more sense for Zach Collins to play Center and Garuba to play power forward, but still, Garuba is a perfect fit.
The Blazers have an incredibly strong backcourt who can score the ball at will, so their frontcourt isn’t relied upon to take many shots. Garuba can take his time developing his offensive game and just focus on complimenting the Blazers scoring guards with good screens and offensive rebounds.
Defensively, the Blazers are losing Whiteside so interior defense may be an issue without a guy like Garuba in the mix. Nasir Little, Zach Collins, and Usman Garuba give the Blazers tremendous youth, length, and athleticism in their frontcourt. Those are three pillars for success in the modern NBA. Garuba would provide the blazers with a mobile big who crashes the glass, plays in the high pick and roll, and scores in transition through rim running. He would be an excellent fit in Portland.
Usman Garuba has been one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft. From a physical standpoint, he is undersized, yet perfect for the modern NBA. He has an incredibly long wingspan, solid defensive instincts, and the potential to be a current NBA star. The keyword here is potential.
Usman’s game is still very raw. He lacks ball-handling skills, is an inconsistent shooter, and he’s currently a bit of a liability on the offensive end of the floor. It is foolish to think that Usman will be a plug and play starter, but it is also silly to not acknowledge how much potential Garuba has as a modern NBA pro.
If Garuba declares this year, he’ll have a tough time adjusting to the NBA as a young, raw, 18-year-old. One more year at Real Madrid would do a lot of good for Garuba and would help him mature into a more NBA-ready prospect. Whether it’s this year or next, look out for Usman Garuba to be an impact NBA player in the future.