The Atlanta Hawks just concluded their stint of games in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League this past weekend. While there were certainly the ups and downs that you would expect with players getting their first taste of professional basketball, one pick from this year’s draft made a sizable impression on NBA scouts and the basketball media.
Big man Mouhamed Gueye, the second-round pick who Atlanta traded for on draft night, was recently included in a list of NBA summer league standouts compiled by John Hollinger of The Athletic (subscription required).
The former Washington State standout averaged 14.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game last season for the Cougars, before being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets and immediately traded to the Boston Celtics and then finally to Atlanta on draft day. Talk about an eventful introduction to the league.
What could Gueye’s ceiling be for the Atlanta Hawks?
At 6’11”, Mouhamed Gueye certainly has NBA center height, although he will still need to spend some time filling into his frame, and at 20 years old, he will have plenty of time to do so in the Hawks’ developmental system this year.
Born in Senegal, Gueye moved to the United States at age 16 to get his first taste of organized basketball at the high school level, where his unique combination of size and agility allowed him to quickly scale the national ranks.
The most obvious area where Gueye figures to make an impact at the NBA level is at the defensive end, where his wingspan and surprising mobility for his stature should allow him to be a very switchable defender that can also protect the rim and won’t be victimized by the pick-and-roll heavy offenses that have exploited Clint Capela throughout his Hawks tenure.
On the other end of the floor, Gueye showed some incredibly promising signs of what his NBA offensive potential could look like, including generating fast-break opportunities by himself, as well as knocking down perimeter jump shots with a shooting form that is essentially unguardable due to his size.
In the below clip, while his navigation of the open floor certainly leaves a bit to be desired, Hawks fans everywhere should be heavily intrigued by the ball-handling and mobility displayed by Gueye that really shouldn’t be possible for someone of his size.
For this upcoming year, it’s unlikely that Gueye will see many minutes if he even makes the opening night roster in the first place.
Atlanta already has two starting-caliber centers in Capela and Onyeka Okongwu, another Pac-12 prodigy who looks poised for a breakout season in 2023. Of course, there have been many calls from the fanbase to trade Capela in hopes of eliminating this redundancy and shoring up Atlanta’s many other foundational flaws, but the way things stand now, it would be very hard to imagine Gueye seeing much floor time this upcoming season.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The NBA G-League was created for a reason, to give prospects like Gueye who have the tools and the potential but maybe just need a bit of time and experience to put it all together. It’s worth remembering that the former Cougar has only been playing organized basketball for about four years, and spending time down with the College Park Skyhawks would certainly do wonders for his comfort and confidence at the next level.
Still, after watching the flashes he showed in summer league, it’s impossible not to be impressed by Gueye’s combination of size, athleticism, and shooting ability, in addition to the immense versatility he could theoretically provide on defense, where Atlanta was preyed upon last season.
If he is able to put all of the pieces together, the Hawks could have a truly elite prospect on their hands.