The Raptors have signed their first undrafted free agent, and its a good one, West Viriginia Mountaineers forward Sagaba Konate, a name you would have first heard back when broke out in 2018, nearly leading all of college basketball in shotblocking. This year was supposed to be the one that established Konate as a draft pick, but a knee injury limited him to just 8 games of action. Konate chose to declare for the draft anyways, and wound up going undrafted. The Raptors have quickly agreed to terms on with him what I would assume is an Exhibit 10 contract, a training camp deal that can be converted to either a two-way or full NBA minimum contract.
The Toronto Raptors have agreed to a deal with Sagaba Konate (West Virginia), a league source told @TheAthleticNBA.— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) June 21, 2019
It’s clear what there is to like about Konate. Despite his relative lack of size, he’s just 6’8” with a 7 foot wingspan but plays the center position, he showcases superb timing and two-foot leaping that allows him to excel as a shotblocker. Konate will often go straight up and block shots with two hands if allowed to get in position prior to the shot attempt. Getting in position is key though, he has a wide frame (weighing in at 250 pounds) and doesn’t explode nearly as well in traffic off of one foot. This means he’ll probably have to play the center position to take advantage of his shot blocking at the next level, coming in as an undersized energy big off the bench ala someone like Montrezl Harrell. The wide frame does mean he’ll have no problem fulfilling the rebounding responsibilities of a center, as he was a monster on the defensive glass in limited time last year.
And Konate certainly has the energy level fill that role as well, fighting hard on offensive glass and running the floor in transition. The Mountaineers made him the focal point of their offense when he was on the court this year, posting him up repeatedly, and Konate re-paid that by showing he wasn’t a black hole on offense, dramitically upping his assist totals, though his efficiency on 2-point shots did slip from prior years where was most used on rolls, cuts and in transition. Where Konate made that back was behind the arc, going 9-for-23 from distance through the 8 games he played, despite not having taken a 3-pointer in his freshman or sophomore seasons. He backed that up with an 81% free throw percentage, and his form looks clean, though his release is a little slow, unsurprisingly for a new shooter.
It’s also worth noting that Konate, much like his new teammate Pascal Siakam, was a late arriver to the sport of basketball, having only started playing the sport in 2014, at the age of 17. Konate grew up in Mali, mostly playing soccer, before travelling overseas to play high school basketball in his junior year of high school, eventually becoming a 3-star recruit. (This should all sound very familiar)
The hope for Konate’s translation to the NBA is obvious. He can be a floor spacing energy big, gobbling up rebounds and camping out under the basket to provide his trademark 2-handed rim protection. On offense, his late start to basketball could mean his skillset develops faster than most older prospects (Konate is 22) as he could eventually develop a more efficient post-game. Even without that, he should still be able to roll, pop, spot-up and run the floor. I’m excited for this guy, and I hope it works out for him and the Raptors.