The Clippers surprised during the NBA Draft, moving up to the 1st round to select Florida State big man Mfiondu Kabengele. While the Clippers were expected to make a move of some kind, not many people predicted that they would trade that far up in the draft, or that Kabengele would be their guy. While we know some of the basics about Kabengele through reputable draft analysis and some basic scouting, it’s great to get an in-depth report on him from the people who know him best — FSU fans. Therefore, we reached out to Tomahawk Nation, our sister FSU blog on the SB network, and did a Q&A with staff writer Michael Rogner. Enjoy!
1. How does Mfiondu Kabengele fit in the direction the NBA is going towards (spacing, switchable defenders on the perimeter)?
Florida State switches as much as any team in college basketball. Mfiondu came off the bench and typically anchored a small (by FSU standards) lineup. Depending on the opponent, FSU would switch 1-5, so Fi is used to guarding much smaller guys, and guarding on the perimeter. On offense, his perimeter shooting developed quite a bit at FSU, but it remains to be seen if he’ll really be a consistent threat from deep in the NBA. He’s also a terror in transition on lobs and put-backs. I’m guessing the main reasons the Clips moved up and grabbed him are his ability to guard multiple positions and his intriguing if raw offensive skill set.
2. Fi is notoriously not a passer. Is this a part of his game that could develop with time and coaching, or will he probably always be a bit slow in terms of making reads/passes offensively?
He was definitely a black hole on offense (albeit, a pretty efficient one). In the Mfiondu Kabengele assist drinking game, no one ever went home drunk. But you also need to keep it in perspective. Fi arrived at FSU with little basketball skill. He was overweight and only about 6-8 in shoes. Early reports from his freshman year (as a redshirt) were not encouraging. The amount that he developed in three years in Tallahassee is pretty staggering. So, put him in a situation where he can work full time with NBA trainers, and I wouldn’t put anything past him. No one will likely confuse his passing skills with Nikola Jokic’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he became NBA average. The other caveat is that the coaches were constantly trying to get the team to play faster. No one was ever going to yell at him for taking a 15-foot jumper off of one pass.
3. What do you think of Kab’s defense and rebounding? He’s a bit undersized to be a center, even in today’s NBA. Can he do the big man stuff to stick?
Coach Hamilton’s defense sells out to shut down the paint. So Mfiondu got plenty of opportunities to show off his abilities as a help defender – which is where he really shines. He also has great ability to recover after getting beat off the dribble. When it comes to bigger, skilled guys in the NBA, he’s definitely going to think he can guard anyone. He certainly doesn’t back down. But he’ll likely get into trouble by having overly active hands and being too aggressive. He’s not great at taking his medicine and living to play another quarter. He fouls a lot. He’s physical. He’s emotional. In terms of rebounding, he had the 7th highest rate in both offensive and defensive rebounding in a stacked ACC. Florida State also relies heavily on bigs clearing space so that guards can come in and clean up the glass, so his rates are likely artificially deflated a bit.
4.All the reports are that he’s a smart, hard-working, motivated individual. Can you speak on that at all?
Every writer who covers FSU loves Mfiondu. He was made available to the media a lot, and he’ll stay in the locker room all night if needed to thoughtfully and thoroughly answer everyone’s questions. Whenever anything good happens, Fi is the happiest guy in the building. His teammates love him. He’s one of the players who is always at the community events. And in terms of hard-working, he completely transformed his body and game while at FSU. If his NBA career doesn’t pan out, it certainly won’t be off-court issues or lack of effort that derail it. He’s a special young man, and we’ll all be tuning in to Clippers games to see him play.
Thanks to Michael for his insight into Mfiondu! He seems like a truly beloved figure in Tallahassee, and his style of play and personality will probably make him a fan-favorite in Los Angeles as well.