If you haven't read it already, be sure to check out Chad Ford's in-depth profile of BIsmack Biyombo and his shocking journey from anonymity to the limelight:
"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 is the oldest of seven brothers and sisters from the city of Lubumbashi. He began playing basketball at age 9, professionally at age 14 in the Congo.
By the time he was 16, he decided to leave his home, despite his parents' objections, to play for a professional team in Qatar. But on his way, he stopped in Yemen for a week to get a visa, and once basketball officials got word that he was in town, they offered to let him practice with the team. Even at 16, Biyombo possessed the body of a man and the athleticism of an NBA player. Within a week, they offered him a contract.
I suppose I understand how some teams could have reservations about his age, but without actual proof -- and no one has ever presented anything but a gut feeling -- it's not even hearsay. Much was made of Biyombo's poor performance shooting the ball during his recent workout in Spain, but according to Ford, the setback did little to dissuade most of the front-office types who made the trip:
"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."
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."
In just a matter of weeks he's gone from being a raw project to a very safe pick. With hype like this I have a hard time imagining he'll actually fall to No. 8 on draft day -- and if he does, that Joe Dumars won't instead pull the trigger on an undersized combo guard from UConn.
But NBA GMs are rarely predictable, so for at least the next week and a half, we can still hope.
(Hat-tip: DBB'er Grant, who FanShot'd this last night ...)