Introducing Cheick Samb

Cheick SambAs you may have heard by now, the Pistons did more than simply draft Will Blalock with the 60th overall pick -- they also traded Maurice Evans to the Lakers for the rights to the 51st pick, Cheick Samb from Senegal. First, a couple of quick thoughts on Samb, because what I have to say about Evans deserves its own post.

Samb is 21 years old but extremely raw -- the only reason he was drafted is because he's 7-1 with a huge knack for blocking shots. He'll likely stay in Europe for another season or two before he ever has a chance of playing in the NBA. Samb actually put his name into the 2005 draft but wisely withdrew -- if he went 51st this year, I'm guessing he probably wouldn't have even been drafted last year.

Samb has a lot of work to do, not just on the court, but also at the dinner table: Joe Dumars says Samb is only about 220 pounds (which is thin, but not as thin as the reports saying he was just 195 pounds made him out to be).

Here's what Joe Dumars had to say about Samb (from Pistons.com):

"A tremendous shot blocker. He’s 7-1, very athletic around the basket, runs the floor really well and has, really, a soft touch with the ball for a 7-1 guy. I like his length, athleticism and his ability to protect the paint. He’s a tremendous shot blocker and I think you guys will see him in the summer league. Although he’s going to go back to Barcelona, right now the plans are for him to fly here next week and play in the summer league with us."

A few more scouting reports can be found after the jump.

Draft Express discussed Cheick and his younger brother Mamadou earlier this month:

We have recently received footage on a player that might have a marginal shot at the second round in this year’s draft. He is Cheick Samb, the elder bother of Mamadou Samb (who happens to be one of the top 1989 prospects in Europe). Brought from Senegal by Arona, a team in the Canary Islands, both brothers signed for Winterthur FC Barcelona over a year ago. Both also shared the floor about a month ago in the Vilagarcía Basket Cup, a youth tournament that is steadily becoming one of the most interesting in the European scene.
...
Despite being a couple of inches taller and at least as athletic as Mamadou, the five-year difference while not having any significant advantage in terms of skills and physical development, place Cheick at a whole different level in terms of interest.

We’re talking about a very long, but incredibly skinny player. Cheick is thin as a rail, and at this point is hard to picture him getting too much stronger. The guy has serious hops (he won the tournament’s dunk contest), elevating really high off his feet, but his skill set is as limited as you can get. He looks unpolished in the low post, while showing just a decent mid-range shot at best. He rarely puts the ball on the floor and he’s not really a remarkable passer, although he usually chooses the logical destination for the ball. The most spectacular part of his game comes on defense, where he takes advantage of his athleticism to block shots from very high up off the ground, especially on defensive helps. Anyway, he’s regularly outmuscled on both ends of the court, which significantly limits his effectiveness, even in youth categories.

Here's his draft profile from NBA.com:

Career Highlights: Played his first year at the professional level with WTC Cornella in the Spanish LEB2 league. Also appeared with Winterthur F.C. Barcelona with their U-20 team in the Circuito Sub-20, a four-phase competition organized by the Spanish basketball leagues separate from their regular seasons. Had previously signed a multi-year contract in the summer of 2004 with Unelco Tenerife in the Spanish ACB, the country’s top professional league, but did not appear in any games with the senior team. Attended Arona Basket Sur Academy in Spain’s Canary Islands in 2003-04.

2005-06: Averaged 9.6 points and team highs of 7.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocked shots for WTC Cornella in the Spanish LEB2 regular season. Led the league in blocked shots, registering more blocks than the totals of every other team in the league except for one. Averaged 9.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocked shots in four playoff contests. With Winterthur F.C. Barcelona in the Circuito Sub-20, averaged 9.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.1 blocked shots in 11 total contests.

2004-05: Played for Tenerife’s affiliated club which was not at the pro team level. Practiced with the senior team.

Strengths: Raw, lean shot-blocker who has tremendous upside as a prospect.

And his profile from Sports Illustrated:

ANALYSIS: Few players who will be picked in the 2006 NBA Draft have less experience than Samb, but that doesn't mean he isn't an exciting prospect. On the contrary, Samb has exhibited shotblocking abilities that would put him among the best rejecters in Europe, if only he had enough experience to play at a higher level. Samb played his first professional season this year in LEB2, which is the third-highest professional league in Spain. He signed a contract with Unelco Tenerife, a club in the ACB, Spain's highest level, but he has competed at lower levels in order to gain experience. In his first season, Samb blocked more shots himself than all but one of the teams in LEB2. He also averaged 9.6 points and 7.7 rebounds, pretty good numbers considering his utter lack of experience. With a normal progression, Samb might be ready to play at Spain's highest level, the ACB, in two more years. In the past, clever NBA teams have selected prospects like Samb and let them develop in Europe for a few years before signing them to play in the NBA. Denver drafted Francisco Elson in 1999, then let him develop for four years in Spain until they felt he was ready for the NBA. Elson has had three productive seasons as a frontcourt reserve for the Nuggets. Perhaps some team will show the same foresight and draft Samb.

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