AUSTIN, Texas -- Mohamed Bamba is the most fascinating prospect in the 2018 NBA draft.
He's a cartoon character physically, with the foot speed of a wing and the go-go-gadget tentacles of an otherworldly being. If the wide-shouldered 7-footer stepped into an NBA game tomorrow he'd have the longest wingspan (7-9½) and fifth-largest standing reach (9-6) in the league.
He stretches for highlight dunks like Michael Jordan in "Space Jam," and reaches to block shots at the rim like Dhalsim jabbing opponents in "Street Fighter." Thanks in large part to his long arms and sharp instincts, he's one of only four players in NCAA history to average at least 13.0 rebounds and 6.0 blocks per 40 minutes through 10-plus games before turning 20 years old.
The other three? Shaquille O'Neal (1991 and 1992), Hakeem Olajuwon (1983) and Ralph Sampson (1980).
"I have game-changing defensive abilities," Bamba said during an exclusive mid-December interview in Austin. "I've really embraced that I can make plays that most people can't make. As soon as I started doing that and stringing together stops, next thing you know we're dominant defensively as a team. That's what I hope to bring wherever I end up long term."
It's Bamba's combination of rare physical gifts and lingering question marks that make him such a tough prospect for talent evaluators to peg. Some scouts see him as a potential top pick -- Rudy Gobert with more offensive game. Others view him as the type of prospect who gets a general manager in trouble -- oozing with talent and smarts yet ridden with the casual demeanor and inconsistent motor that is too often stuck in neutral.