Is it time for the Ismael Kamagate experience in Denver?


Despite addressing some of the issues they had on the perimeter this past summer, the Denver Nuggets have experienced many ups and downs in the early part of the 2022-23 NBA regular season. While DeAndre Jordan has filled in admirably at the backup center position, Denver still needs a more physical presence on the interior. Luckily, they drafted a player in the offseason with a suitable skill set to cover that need – Ismael Kamagate.

Kamagate was drafted 46th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft and he’s already proving that he could be a second-round steal playing in France for Paris Basketball. The 6-foot-11 big man was one of the top prospects coming from Europe last season, and Denver even traded away a second-round pick to acquire his talents. Kamagate was also invited to the NBA Summer League, where he put up respectable numbers.

Through five games in Las Vegas, Paris Basketball’s starting center averaged over five points, five rebounds, and one block per game, showing promise as a future prospect. In all honesty, it was a little surprising that the Denver Nuggets decided to keep him in Europe for one season after he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the LNB Pro A, the top-tier league in France. Last season, Kamagate was one of the best players in the LNB  averaging 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game, shooting better than 65% from the field.

Why Ismael Kamagate could have a role for the Nuggets this season

The Denver Nuggets obviously wanted to bring a veteran big behind Nikola Jokic and that was the reason they signed DeAndre Jordan – a seasoned veteran– to become the backup of the back-to-back MVP. Nikola Jokic is not a rim protector so Jordan fills up the role with Zeke Nnaji as the backup plan. With that said, the Nuggets have yet to establish a strong defensive presence in the paint as they are allowing opponents to score 53.3 points inside the three-point line, being a bottom-five team in that category.

Denver is also a bottom-tier team in opponent’s field goal percentage as they are allowing opponents to hit on 49% of their shots from the field. Moreover, they rank towards the middle of the pack (17th) in rebounding collecting 43.5 total rebounds per game. Even though they are generally in a better position in advanced rebounding statistics, they are among the worst teams in defensive rating permitting 113.8 points per 100 possessions.

The eye test shows that Denver needs at least one player like Ismael Kamagate on their roster. I understand that putting your hopes in a rookie is not the way to go when you’re competing for an NBA title, but Kamagate has been playing against professional basketball players for the last three seasons. At 21, the Frenchman is showcasing immense defensive potential that could help him carve out a role in the NBA.

Ismael Kamagate is an elite rebounder averaging 9.0 per contest in the 2022-23 LNB Pro A, ahead of the consensus first-overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Victor Wembanyama. He ranks second in the French League in blocks (2.0), and performance rating (20.0) as well. It’s also worth noting that Paris Basketball plays in the EuroCup, which is the second-tier league behind the EuroLeague, the top competition in all of Europe, and he’s consistently been one of the top performers.

In any case, Ismael Kamagate is a great rebounder and rim-protector, and he’s even proven to be an adequate passer from the high post this season as well. He’s also shown tremendous improvement diving hard in the paint on pick-and-rolls while still dominating the paint on the defensive side of the ball. Utilizing his athleticism and ability to move laterally at a high level.

He’s already a great rim-running center and he’s adding more skill to his game as we’re heading deeper into the 2022-23 season. In the EuroCup, the young prospect is putting up 10.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game, shooting 82.5% on two-pointers through four games.

It’s time for the Denver Nuggets to give Kamagate a legitimate chance

Several scouting reports in the United States talked about Ismael Kamagate being a draft-and-stash raw prospect who still has a ways to go before becoming a full-scale NBA player. In my opinion, Kamagate was misjudged last summer. He was part of the France national team in the 2022 EuroBasket and even spent time working alongside Rudy Gobert. It’s clear how much he’s already added to his game on both ends of the floor while remaining a mobile rim-running center.

Personally, I believe the Nuggets have to add that kind of player alongside Nikola Jokic to truly compete in the NBA. Plus, it will be a great spectacle to see him running the pick-and-roll with Bones Hyland against the opponent’s bench mob. Once Kamagate makes the jump to the NBA, it will become evident why he was considered a steal for the Denver Nuggets this past offseason. Let’s not forget that he was selected at No.46 and the Nuggets have a history of picking great players in the second round.

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