The memorial tournament of Adam Wojcik in Wroclaw was first opportunity for high level scouting in my hometown since I started doing this. Tournament gathered three former clubs of Polish legend including Oostende with arguably first round prospect Amar Sylla. Senegalese forward still can’t play in Domestic league which by the way already started as he didn’t turn 18 which causes difficulties to sign a pro contract and Belgian champion decided not to pay extra fee to make him eligible before that. That’s why Real Madrid product was expected to play big minutes here.
First opponent was host and rebuilding powerhouse WKS Slask which will be happy if achieves playoffs. Oostende controlled the game and if it wasn’t for friendly atmosphere, big opening ceremony + questionable officiating they could win by much bigger margin. Average rival but at least in couple possessions after switching ball screens, Sylla could match up with NBA athlete and physical specimen like Torin Dorn who is rookie after NC State.
Second game, Sylla faced Eurocup bound Asseco Arka Gdynia (well maybe one of the weakest in competition but still) without star power in frontcourt but comboforward with inside/outside skillset like Leyton Hammonds or modern energy undersized big Devonte Upson are solid mid level players in Europe who provide legitimate evaluation setting for teenage NBA prospect. Sylla was perhaps man of the match in 1st leg where he put on a dunk show and even though performance the following day was much more of the mixed bag (less minutes, some unnecessary turnovers) he finished as MVP of the tournament.
Below observations I put together after attending both games.
Sylla definitely looks like he belongs to the NBA world from physical standpoint. He may not have too much meat on his bone but he is a wiry player standing tall. Upside is maybe not infinite but his good though a bit thin frame will likely continue to get few more pounds next seasons and it seems like he already plays a bit stronger than he looks.
Anyway what attracts the most about his profile is a rare combination of agility and quickness for his height. First feature is truly cat like and second maybe not elite but still very good. Moreover he spreads +7’2 wingspan and has almost center like reach. His legs are really skinny which often raises question marks but it’s not the case with Amar. His long achilles releases a lot of energy and power which shows in highly desirable acceleration or explosiveness.
Possibly his best selling point. Sylla offers tremendous switchability given his great hips and how low he can get thanks to them. He handles lateral motion in the same way as much smaller athletes which is huge asset considering his height and length. While he was rejecting shots left and right at U18 level, block numbers are not that great in pro level or U19 World Cup so far. However at times he played even two positions lower which naturally decreases potential rim protection impact and it’s hard to imagine him not reaching at least satisfying level for PF in this regard moving forward even if we talk about NBA outlook. Also it’s worth mentioning that besides being disruptive for the passing lanes, his end to end quickness and willingness to chase down helps to stop the fast breaks at times.
POSITIONAL FIT & PERIMETER GAME
Sylla is still really raw with the ball. It was exposed during U19 where he spent majority of time playing SF position due to cosmic length that Senegalese team possessed in frontcourt. It was caused also by lack of quality guard who could setup the offense. Amar was asked to produce offense by himself which resulted as forcing issue in questionable drives or shaky turnaround jumpers. If you want to play big ball he may occasionally spend few minutes as small forward but mostly because he can defend them and give rebounding advantage so at times it can make sense with two other strong ball handlers on court. Nevertheless his handle or shot creation doesn’t come close to meet prototypical requirements on this position.
On youth level with Real Madrid we often saw Sylla playing at Center. He may be a bit more equipped for a small ball big than SF but strength wise may struggle with some of the bigger bodies in NBA. At the same time he doesn’t have enough weapons in his offensive arsenal to compensate for that. He is mostly outrunner type of big (+ alley-oop target) but can’t really punish others consistently with his face up game by taking defender away from the paint and being an effective missmatch. So power forward seems like primary and almost exclusive fit for him.
Amar made 3 from 6 three pointers in Wroclaw which is very small sample but suggest some improvement and gives promise of being more reliable as a puzzle within good system (2/20 at the U19s while no system at all). Still jumper is not very consistent, neither quick, nor suggesting good natural touch and it’s up to discussion whether Sylla can be good enough shooter at some point instead of can he be a good shooter at NBA level. Unfortunately it doesn’t get much better with the jumper at mid range area (it could give him advantage as he has potential to play over defender with better handle).
Senegalese forward possess average bball IQ in best case scenario. He can be a ball stopper at times as quick decision making is not natural for him, he has no creativity, doesn’t read the game ahead and is rather a puppet on a string in half court than player who can break the set play for his own & team advantage. While he attacked closeouts few times with success he is still working on coordinating his catch & go, sometimes have troubles if he has to dribble more than once and is solely left hand finisher no matter which side or how difficult the angle is.
There is not many flashes as a passer in his game either, technique and vision leaves something to be desired. If he doesn’t drive all the way, expect simple and not always fully accurate solution.
What was very promising in Wroclaw is definitely off the ball impact. He seemed to understand his role and how easier for him is to help the team with simple running to transition, cutting off the ball, diving for the loose ball or chasing the putbacks. Especially knack for moving without the basketball, which ended up by big finishes and energizing the entire lineup at times was really impressive and may help him to stay on the court longer throughout the season.
SITUATION AND OUTLOOK
Sylla definitely has a good situation in stable environment under proven coach. Roster is not overly deep and he is expected to play 20 or more minutes on consistent basis. BCL provides extra amount of quality tests for up and coming prospect and pressure will basically start as late as in Belgium league finals in order to win 9th championship in a row.
He seems almost locked to be drafted in (late) 20s and worst case scenario may slip to the early or with really unexpectedly bad season mid second round. Anyway without further skill development (shooting alone may not be enough) he can become at most NBA second unit PF. If you don’t score or create you are unlikely to ever be a centerpiece which gives possibility to unlock things with his own presence for others. Sylla may help to give a little lineup flexxibility by checking some boxes temporarily as 3 or 5 man but not enough to be labeled as a glue guy and often solely defense is not sufficient for role player seeking regular minutes.