Like most basketball fans, I was surprised when the Brooklyn Nets announced on July 21st that they signed Yakuba Ouattara to a two-way deal. That bewilderment was due to how Ouattara stood as an unknown player to most American basketball fans as he’s a Ghanaian-born guard that never even stepped foot in the States during his career. After going pro in 2012-13, he has spent his career playing with various teams in France which includes: Chalon-Sur-Saone, Denain ASC Voltaire and more recently AS Monaco.
Ouattara’s stock as a player really grew once he signed with AS Monaco in 2015 as he transitioned from being a benchwarmer to a key starter. From the jump, Ouattara immediately shined in that role as he positioned himself as a great perimeter shooter that can also crash the glass.
Those skills were most evident during the 2016-16 season, as he played with the squad in both LNB Pro A and the Basketball Champions League In a combined 51 games, Ouattara shined as he put up 10.9 points, 3 rebounds and .8 steals on 48% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 3.2 perimeter attempts in 23.8 minutes per game.
Most people would immediately focus in on him being a efficient shooter, as he maintained a solid 58% True Shooting Percentage during the prior season. However, I think the Nets were most intrigued by his work as an offensive rebounder. Despite only averaging three rebounds in 16-17, Ouattara really did a lot of damage on the offensive glass he collected 1.5 boards per game on that end of the floor. That average becomes even more impressive when you realize that Ouattara stands as a 6’3 guard that played less than 25 minutes per game.
That amazing production was made possible by how Ouattara seems to sense where the ball might end up before it even leaves the shooters hand. His insane vision allows him to run his way from the perimeter to the paint. As most players are just boxing out and waiting for the ball, he can leap and grab the rebound while the other players are just focused on boxing each other out. After he grabs that rebound, Ouattara can quickly get back up and finish at the rim with a dunk or layup.
Ouattara’s quickness, vision and athleticism has also allowed him to be a solid on-ball slasher. Although he’s only comfortable with driving to the right end of the paint, He does a nice job of utilizing a quick first step to work around that perimeter defender. After he gets past that initial opponent, Ouattara is able to drive right to the rim and finish with a smooth layup or electrifying dunk. That finishing ability is even evident when he’s driving right into traffic as Ouattara utilizes his strong 185 pound frame to put up a nice shot around contact.
The last part of Ouattara’s offensive arsenal comes from his work as a perimeter shooter, which is definitely his most reliable weapon. Ouattara shot 38% from beyond the arc on 3.2 perimeter attempts per game in 2016-17. That placed him placed him as the team’s second most efficient perimeter shooter behind Sergii Gladyr, who shot 43% from beyond the arc for AS Monaco.
At this point, Ouattara definitely prefers working through catch-and-shoot rather than off-the-dribble when he’s playing beyond the three point line. Currently, that seems to be a great plan as hestands as that prototypical off-ball weapon that can work around the court and get to his spot on the perimeter. Once he finds his spot, Ouattara does a little hop before receiving the pass which allows him to get in position faster than if he did a 1-2 step like other guards. That technique works wonders for Ouattara as he is able to shoot before just milliseconds after receiving the pass.
Currently, Ouattara seems more comfortable with working in catch-and-shoot, but he does show some rare instances where he can create his own shot. While most of those instances occur inside the perimeter, it definitely seems like he does have potential to become a more well-rounded shooter.
While he stood as a complete unknown just ten days ago, I think there’s a chance that he can be one of the best players that signed to a two-way deal. Yes, Ouattara is a player with a variety of different flaws that include: only able to drive to one end of the court, struggles as an off-the-dribble shooter and struggles as a facilitator. Despite that, he’s still a unique 6’3 guard that attacks the offensive glass like he’s a wing or center. The only time I’ve seen another guard show that level of aggression on the offensive glass was Russell Westbrook or Celtics-era Rajon Rondo.
That great rebounding is just one reason why Ouattara could be a fantastic off-ball threat. As previously mentioned, he’s terrific in catch-and-shoot as his great form allows him to continuously knock down jumpers from beyond the arc. Coinciding with that, he’s a great cutter that knows when to attack the basket. Once he does that, Ouattara can finish at the rim with some amazing dunks.
Although he might not be a perfect player, Yakuba Ouattara stands as a prospect that could surprise a lot of fans when he makes his way to the Long Island Nets this fall.