Following this past year’s draft and mere days after confetti was swept off Toronto streets, the Toronto Raptors made a future-minded move by agreeing to sign West Virginia alum Sagaba Konate. During his junior year, undrafted 6’8 forward declared that year’s NBA Draft after putting up 13.6 points, 8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.7 blocks on 43% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc in nine total games.
That season was struck short due to going down with a knee injury after a December 8th game against Pittsburgh. While all injuries have some measure of bad luck, this case multiplied as his 16 points, 9 rebounds and 7 block performance stood as one of the best games of his college career.
Although the career with West Virginia was struck short by injury, the 6’8 forward still was able to make an impact during his short run with the team. During that aforementioned Pittsburgh game, which unfortunately ended his college run, he overtook D’Or Fischer as the team’s career block leader with a 192nd rejection, which occurred on this Trey McGowens’ dunk attempt.
In addition to being the best shot-blocker in West Virginia history, Konate stood out as an elite player during his short time in the BIg 12. That was most shown during his sophomore season, where he was named to the conference’s All-Third Team and All-Defensive Team after putting up 10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks on 51% from the field.
While he was a solid offensive threat during his run with West Virginia, he became elite due to his play on the other end of the court. Aside from Grizzlies two-way player Yuta Watanabe, Konate stands as the best defensive player that we’ve analyzed over the course of this summer. A lot of that could immediately become evident after looking at the incredible block numbers. However, those stats don’t tell the whole story as he’s shown himself to be capable of more than just standing at the rim and waiting for on-ball drivers.
In fact, the opposite is the case as the 6’8, 250 pound forward has shown an occasional knack for being able to go to the perimeter and switch onto guards. Despite being a bigger dude, Konate looks comfortable defending on the perimeter as he’s able to quickly move his feet and use a solid defensive stance to stay right on that guard and prevent them from getting an open driving lane. That singular action was the end game for opposing guards as they either lost control of the ball or threw bad passes because they weren’t able to find a teammate due to a taller forward standing in front of them.
Despite being more capable of switching onto to guards, his bread and butter on the defensive end is still as a rim protector. While that is obviously evident from those aforementioned numbers, you actually have to watch him work to truly appreciate his craft as he has his own technique for protecting the paint.
Konate’s approach comes from using excellent footwork and the power of verticality to just stop the ball from entering flight. This method works perfectly as the ball usually stays in play after the block, which gives his team a chance to push the ball in transition rather than allowing the opposition to get another shot with an out-of-bounds play.
Although his tremendous defense stands as the centerpiece of Konate’s game, his work on the offensive end will be the most exciting thing to watch during the rookie year in the G League. That intrigue comes from his upside as a perimeter shooter as the 6’8 forward shot 39% on 21 total attempts during his junior season. While that’s definitely a small sample size, there’s a reason to believe that he can replicate that for an entire season. For one, the jumper is pretty fluid as his body remains centered and finishes with a high release point. Is it a bit on the slow side? Definitely, but the actual shooting stroke itself looks solid.
Another reason to be optimistic about the West Virginia alum’s upside as a perimeter threat is how he shot 79% from the charity stripe on 132 total attempts during his sophomore and junior seasons. That high free throw percentage could be a good indication of things to come as success from the charity stripe shows that the player has solid touch and consistent shooting mechanics.
Speaking of great touch, the 6’8 forward is a post-up threat that does most of his work on the right block. In that area, he impresses through really slick footwork, soft touch and using the durable 250-pound frame to overpower most of the Big 12 defenders that he was matched up against. That trifecta of traits allowed him to shine through being able to use footwork to create separation from the defender or just hitting a smooth right-handed hook shot.
After watching a few games from his sophomore and junior seasons, it’s clear why the Toronto Raptors were eager to sign the West Virginia alum right after the NBA Draft. For one, the 6’8 forward’s play on defense is undoubtedly great as the forward has shown the rare ability to go the perimeter and defend guards while shining as a fantastic rim protector. Honestly, the only real flaw is how he got into frequent foul trouble as he averaged 2.6 fouls in only 19 minutes per game during his college career.
On the offensive end, it will be interesting to see how effective the 6’8 forward will be from beyond the arc. Although the metrics definitely point to positivity, there’s definitely a chance that he stumbles out with getting adjusted to the NBA three-point line. If those struggles do occur, Konate could decide to rely on post-ups and offensive rebounding to help the 905 out on this end of the floor.
Currently, the Toronto Raptors are one of two NBA teams that don’t have either of their two-way slots filled. Alongside the subject of this piece, the candidates to fill one of those spots include former Syracuse forward Oshae Brissett and G League veteran Devin Robinson. While both players are solid in their own ways, Konate stands a step above them in terms of upside due to his excellent defense and promise as a perimeter shooter.
Whether or not the Raptors decide to reward the West Virginia alum with a two-way deal has yet to be determined, Sagaba Konate is clearly a solid prospect that fans should keep an eye on when the 905 begin their 2019-20 season on November 8th against the Grand Rapids Drive.