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2019 NBA Draft Profile: Tacko Fall

20 years ago, he’d be #1 overall. Can Tacko succeed in the modern NBA?

Tacko Fall
Tacko Fall
Photo: Derek Warden

Tacko Fall is without doubt the most unique player ever to don the black and gold. At 7’6” in high school, he was a curiosity coming from Senegal via Liberty Christian Prep in Tavares.

But when he took the floor at UCF against college competition, it was clear he was more than just a tall guy - he could play.

Tacko was always a sort of square peg in a round hole. Basketball in 2019 is a wing’s game, but he was locked into the old school center tradition. His biggest enemy on the court was himself, namely via foul trouble. He committed at least four fouls in 30 of his 115 career games, but spent large sections of time at the end of halves or in critical moments on the bench due to foul trouble.

For every good thing, there was a drawback. For all Tacko’s rebounding (7.7 rpg career), he had difficulty handling the ball on offense at times (2.2 turnovers/game). For all the rim protection (2.4 blocks per game plus countless shots altered), his free throw shooting was a liability (43.2% career).

He showed great promise after his first two years - so much so that he initially declared his eligibility for the NBA Draft, but was able to return to school, having worked out with a few teams without hiring an agent. After injuries cost him significant time in his junior year, Tacko was primed for a huge senior season.

It ended up being an up-and-down affair. He showed some regression in 2018-19, with his scoring, rebounding and shot blocking all taking slight downturns even from his abbreviated junior year.

But he finished strong in conference play, hitting double-figures in 11 of his last 13 games, and saving two of his best performances for his final two games in the NCAA Tournament, when it mattered most.

And yet for all the times when it was frustrating watching him, thinking he should be more dominant, he finished the NCAA’s all-time leader in field goal percentage (73.96%) by a wide margin - almost seven percentage points. 7’6” or not, that doesn’t just happen.

The question now for Tacko Fall is whether a super-big man can succeed in the modern drive-and-kick, seven-seconds-or-less NBA. Either a team could zig with him while everyone zags, or he could continue to be the square peg in a round hole. Either way, someone is going to give him a shot, and deservedly so. Basketball aside, there is no person on this earth who has come across him who doesn’t love Tacko Fall.

Best Games

23 points, 20 rebounds, 11/14 FG vs. SMU in 2019

Here’s Tacko completely dismantling a small team:

13 points, 18 rebounds, 5 blocks vs. VCU in 2019 NCAA First Round

Here’s Tacko dismantling a slightly larger team in an NCAA Tournament game:

15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 blocks, 7/10 FG vs. Duke in NCAA Second Round

Here’s Tacko Fall going toe-to-toe with the ostensible #1 overall pick, Zion Williamson of Duke:

There should be no doubt that at his very best, Tacko Fall has the potential to be a solid big man. Danny White himself said that 20 years ago, he’d be the #1 overall pick. But the league is different now. How he adapts his game to the pros, and how hard he works at it, will be the determining factors in whether we see Tacko on an NBA floor in the coming years

Stats

Tacko Fall’s Career Stats (Per 40 Minutes)

Season School G GS MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Season School G GS MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2015-16 UCF 30 26 529 7.3 9.7 0.75 2.2 3.9 0.558 13.3 0.8 0.2 5.3 3.7 5.7 16.7
2016-17 UCF 36 36 947 7.1 9.9 0.715 2.3 5 0.462 14.5 0.8 0.4 4 3.8 3.8 16.5
2017-18 UCF 16 15 351 9 11.7 0.767 2.6 5.7 0.46 13.3 0.6 0.6 3.5 4.8 4.7 20.6
2018-19 UCF 33 33 822 7.5 10 0.748 2.9 7.9 0.362 12.2 0.7 0.4 4.1 2.9 4.5 17.9
Career UCF 115 110 2649 7.5 10.1 0.74 2.5 5.8 0.432 13.4 0.8 0.4 4.2 3.6 4.5 17.5
Source: Sports-Reference.com

Draft Projection

Second Round

To his credit, Tacko brought it in the pre-draft camps, opening eyes that may have dismissed him out-of-hand before:

Size-wise, Tacko compares favorably with Yao Ming:

But his coordination isn’t there yet. Given some time, coaching and reps, there’s a possibility for it to happen, but again, that means he’s not the refined product one would have to be in order to merit a first-round grade.

Best-Case Pro Comparison

Shawn Bradley

It’s easy to narrow down which super-tall guy to make this comparison with. I go with Bradley here because Tacko’s athleticism is similar to Bradley’s at this same time, and while Tacko is not yet the skilled, soft-touched big man that Yao Ming was at this stage. Bradley was admittedly clunky, but the former #3 overall pick worked himself into a 12-year career as a rim protector (2.5 blocks per game).

Workouts