Back on July 2nd, the Chicago Bulls announced via their official Twitter account that they’ve signed French prospect Adam Mokoka to a two-way deal. Currently, the 20-year-old guard stands as the team’s lone two-way players, as they waived Brandon Sampson and Rawle Alkins before the league year started on June 30th. Actually, Mokoka makes history as the first international-based prospect to receive a two-way deal. All the other players started their career in the United States, whether that came through playing high school or college ball.
Mokoka’s path to receiving a two-way deal from the Bulls came through spending the prior season playing with KK Mega Bemax of the Serbian Adriatic Basketball Association (ABA). That same team where current All-Star forward Nikola Jokic spent his first three years as a pro before getting selected by the Denver Nuggets in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Although it’s yet to be seen if Mokoka will have the same level of success as the current elite forward, the young guard definitely stood out during his lone season with the team. In 28 minutes per game, he put up 11.1 points, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals on 41% from the field and 32% from beyond the arc on 4.1 attempts in 28 minutes per game. That type of inconsistent offensive production is common for the young forward as he wasn’t able to shoot better than 40% from the field during his 22 combined games playing with France is various FIBA tournaments.
Despite being an inconsistent scorer, Mokoka still stands out as an intriguing prospect due to his phenomenal work on defense. From the moment that you watch the young guard play, his love for working on this end of the floor immediately becomes apparent. Because from the moment that his assignment receives the inbounds pass, the French guard is 100% focused on sticking on them like velcro. That focus persists when an opposing big tries to set a big closer to half-court as he does an excellent job of being able to react in those type of open court situations.
The situation gets different when Mokoka is working near the three-point line as he does have problems with making those split-second decisions between going under or over the screen. Unlike most guards, the 20-year-old is comfortable with the act of switching onto front-court players and even trying to prevent them from receiving inbounds passes.
An example of that is seen in the clip below as he’s able to immediately switch onto the big. Despite standing at only 190 pounds, he’s able to find a way to get his body in front of that front-court player and push him further away from the basket. That action gives the opposing team one less possible option to dish the ball to Mokoka makes those types of players multiple times every game, which really improves his stock as a defender. While preventing a big from receiving an inbounds pass won’t show up in a box score like steals or blocks, doing those little things can make the difference behind the team being able to win a close game.
Although he does a fantastic job of being able to switch on anybody from point guards to power forwards, Mokoka isn’t a slouch when it comes to playing straight up man-to-man defense. In addition to his sheer tenacity, the guard can use quick feet and a reported 6’10 wingspan to be able to stay in front of opposing guards or wings that are trying to drive to the rim. A fantastic example of that is demonstrated in the clip below as he stays directly on the opponent’s hip with his arms spread out wide which would put him in position to deter any possible shot attempt. However, the KK Mornar guard wouldn’t even get to that point as he literally fell from Mokoka’s defensive pressure. The young guard was then able to retrieve the ball and start a transition possession.
While he definitely stands as a defensive-minded guard that has stood as an inconsistent scorer, the young Frenchman definitely isn’t a lost cause on the other end of the floor. For one, he shows a lot of promise as a facilitator due to averaging 3.7 assists per game with a decent 1.3 AST/TO ratio. At this point, a lot of those assists comes through him just being an unselfish player that’s always willing to make the necessary pass to an open teammate, whether that’s a chest pass to a perimeter shooter or bounce feed to a cutting big.
Although a lot of his assists comes through being unselfish, the young guard shows some upside as a drive-and-dish facilitator. That potential comes from him using his quick first step to get into the rim before deciding whether to dish it out to an open shooter or throw a small bounce pass to a front-court player that was either waiting in the paint or cutting to the rim.
Mokoka’s last real intriguing quality on the offensive end deals with his work as a perimeter shooter. In 2018-19, he shot just 32% from beyond the arc on 4.1 attempts per game. While that below-average percentage could be considered disappointing more than anything else, his promise is seen when you actually watch him work from beyond the arc. Whether working off the catch or off the dribble, the young guard shows confidence in being able to quickly get his shot up. That self-assurance combined with a pretty solid shooting stroke can give you faith that the French guard can progress as a perimeter threat during his rookie year in the NBA/G League.
Despite still being a pretty raw offensive player, Bulls should have reason to be interested in watching this young guard play in the G League with the Windy City Bulls. A lot of that intrigue will come from watching him play defense as Mokoka seems to live for playing full-court defense and subsequently frustrating any guard that he’s matched up against. In addition to his knack of guarding the full 94 feet, he’s shown an ability of switching onto bigs and doing whatever it takes to stop them receiving entry passes. Those traits put together should allow him to immediately be one of the best backcourt defenders in the G League next season.