Assessing Yoan Makoundou and Kenny Baptiste

June 14th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Recently, Le Mans’ 6-8 French forward, Kenny Baptiste has declared to enter the 2021 draft.  Statistically, he’s played well in France’s top league, the French Jeep Elite, so he may warrant a second round selection this year.  I decided to take the time to watch him play for Le Mans Sarthe against Cholet Basket in a May 17th basketball game, as I managed to see this with thanks to YouTube via CholetBasketTV.  This also presented an opportunity to watch Yoan Makoundou play again, who happened to outshine Baptiste in this game.  Here are my thoughts on how both of the prospects fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Cholet Basket’s Yoan Makoundou (pictured dunking the basketball) could be a solid find for an NBA team if he decides to stay in the 2021 NBA Draft.
(Photo:
Sébastien Aubinaud/Ouest-France)

Cholet Basket’s 6-9 forward, Yoan Makoundou had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Le Mans Sarthe.  While none of the prospects dominated in this game, Makoundou consistently played hard, and he would make high-motor plays to help his team score on offense.  Defensively, he had his ups and downs, but he was still very active on that end, and he consistently gave a great effort on both ends of the floor.

Makoundou showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays.  He managed to score on a thunderous dunk off of a cut to the hoop.  He also ran in to score on a powerful tip slam after leaping up to get an offensive rebound.  He also caught a lob pass with one hand on a roll to the rim, as he quickly spun right to draw free throws on an acrobatic, turnaround layup.

He also showed a satisfactory ability to score in the post as well as off the dribble.  Makoundou used a strong, drop step move to score on a powerful dunk in the post. He also drove quickly in to throw down a strong jam late in this contest.  On one play though, he took a contested, off-balanced jump hook that ended up missing awkwardly in traffic.

Also, Makoundou showed off satisfactory playmaking skills in this game.  He would set many on-ball screens to help his teammates get open driving lanes.  He also quickly swung the ball to an open shooter to notch an assist, and he also threw a bounce pass to a cutter to set up another score.  On one play, he tried to catch an underthrown lob pass with one hand on a roll, but he was unable to catch the ball that time. Plus, Makoundou did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active at crashing the glass, and he was able to leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor.

He also played adequate defense in this game.  Makoundou was able to run back to deflect a pass to a teammate to help his team get a steal.  When defending in the post, he was able to knock the ball away to himself to get another steal.  He also showed decent feet to guard opposing ball-handlers out on the perimeter.  He also appeared to be a shot-blocking presence when defending off the dribble, although the officials ended up calling a couple of fouls on him despite appearing to get all ball on those plays.

On the downside, he can sometimes over-help and be caught ball watching, which can cause him to have lapses and also be late on his rotations.  On one play, he was late to rotate, and allowed his man to score on a quick, three-point shot.  Another time, he was caught ball watching and briefly lost track of his man, and he was late to contest the shot in transition, which led him to commit a foul and allow a dunk on that play.  On another play, he rotated but he froze in his tracks as he didn’t contest the shot off of a drive, which led his team to allow the score around the basket.

Overall, Yoan Makoundou is a very athletic, high-motor big man that can make some solid plays on both ends of the floor.  He will need to extend his shooting range and work on his jump shot, and he will need to improve his focus on the defensive end.  Still, he is a strong finisher around the basket, and he has very good athletic tools that could enable him to fare well at the NBA level.  Currently, he is a second round prospect for the 2021 draft, and he could project well into a defensive specialist role in the NBA.

Le Mans Sarthe’s 6-8 forward, Kenny Baptiste is an early entrant in the 2021 NBA Draft.
(Photo:
Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Le Mans Sarthe’s Kenny Baptiste had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Cholet Basket.  He showed some playmaking skills as he can operate as a point forward, and he also can attack the hoop to score some points and get assists on offense.  He also was active on the boards early and showed some defensive potential, but he struggled with his outside shot, and his defensive motor appeared to be lacking, as he had some breakdowns on that end of the floor.

Baptiste showed a decent ability to score off the dribble.  He ran off of a ball screen to get the basketball, and he drove to his left before using a spin move to his right to score on a floater.  He also pushed the ball quickly off of a steal to draw free throws on an aggressive drive in transition.  He also used a spin move to his right another time, but he ended up missing on a turnaround jumper.  Also, Baptiste excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  On one possession, he was able to make a baseline cut to the hoop, as he then used a pump fake to score. On the downside, he struggled to knock down outside shots.  He missed on a wide open corner three off the catch, as that was his lone three-point attempt, and he showed a rather slow release in trying to get his shot off.  He also used a crossover move, but then missed on a contested pull-up jumper from just inside the arc.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills in this game.  Baptiste would bring the ball up, and he would throw timely passes to open shooters to set up scores for them.  On the downside, sometimes he would struggle to handle the ball when pressured, as he got away with clearing out wit his arm once, and he also had a ball poked away to nearly commit a turnover another time.  When posting up a smaller defender, he lowered his shoulder then committed a charging foul that led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover.  He also telegraphed a lazy bounce pass that led his team right into a defender, as his teammate had it quickly stolen away shortly after getting the pass late in this match.

Also, Baptiste did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball.  Early on, he got away with grabbing an opponent, as he then pushed him aside to chase down a defensive board.  Baptiste also was able to chase down a couple of other balls to help his team get defensive rebounds.  On one play though, he was called for committing an over the back foul when going for an offensive board later on.

Defensively though, he struggled in this game.  For the positives, he is a long, athletic defender that will actively play passing lanes.  He was able to run back to deflect a pass to a teammate to help his team get a steal.  Baptiste also leapt up to catch a ball that was deflected to him to help his team get another.  He also used his length to close out on a three-point shooter to force a miss, and sometimes he would be able to fight through screens to stay with opposing ball handlers. 

On the downside, he would struggle to guard opposing ball handlers as sometimes he wouldn’t move his feet well, and he would tend to get beat off the dribble.  He also struggled to defend screens due to his lack of strength.  On one play, he would fight too high around the screen, and it led him to allow a score at the rim.  Other times, he would take bad gambles, as he rotated to commit an unnecessary reach-in foul on an opposing ball handler, and he also bit wildly on a pump fake to commit a foul on a drive another time.  Midway through the fourth quarter, Baptiste telegraphed a poorly thrown pass that led his teammate right into a defender, as the opponent swiped the ball away from his teammate shortly afterwards to create a fast break opportunity the other way, and Baptiste didn’t run or hustle back on defense at all, which led his team to allow a dunk.  His lackluster play in the fourth quarter combined with that brutal sequence promptly led to his benching immediately afterwards, and he didn’t come back in until just a handful of seconds were left in regulation.

Kenny Baptiste has had a very good season this year, but his performance was a bit lackluster in this game.  He was able to make some solid plays early on, but he didn’t really seem to stand out.  He had trouble knocking down outside shots, and he didn’t defend well when he was on the court, as he brought forth a surprisingly low motor and combined with poor effort levels that really seemed to wane and lag late in this match. 

Baptiste is a borderline second round candidate that is talented enough to warrant consideration to be selected late in this draft.  That said though, he still needs to show that his improved outside shot is not a fluke, as he has really struggled with his jump shot in the past, and he will need to give more effort on the defensive on a consistent basis.  He’ll need to spend more time to hone his game, but if he does make it to the NBA, he could project to be a backend rotation player that could play multiple positions, similar to Denver Nuggets’ swingman, P.J. Dozier in the association.

Other Notes:

Le Mans Sarthe’s 6-7 French forward, Hugo Mienandi also played in this game.  He is an athletic player that was able to make some plays around the basket, but he didn’t really show a jump shot or look to shoot the ball nearly enough when he was on the floor. Mienandi was able to score on a strong, right-handed drive to the hoop.  He didn’t look to take jumpers, and he will need to show NBA teams in the future that he can knock down outside shots to provide adequate floor spacing for teams when he is on offense.

He also showcased average at best playmaking skills.  Mienandi is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can get his teammates the ball quickly.  On the downside, he was pressured when he received the ball in the backcourt, and he ended up getting called for traveling, as he moved with the ball without dribbling the basketball.

Defensively, he looked to be average at best.  When defending in the post, Mienandi was able to aggressively block the shot to force a shot clock violation, and he defended that possession very well that time.  On the downside, he can struggle to defend out on the perimeter.  On one play, he didn’t stay attached to a shooter as he then struggled to fight through the screen, and he gave up too much space, which led his opponent to score on a three-pointer.  On another, he over-pursued the opposing ball handler and was too aggressive on the close out, which caused him to trail his man on the drive.  Though his man still missed on the drive, his team immediately allowed a player on the opposing team to score on an open tip dunk, as he also didn’t put a body on him or box him out. Overall, Hugo Mienandi is a strong, athletic combo forward that showed the ability to score and defend in the paint, but he will need to improve his jump shot and perimeter defense, and he will need to tighten up his handles.

In evaluating his skills, the most logical role for him if he does make it to the NBA would be if he ends up being a defensive specialist.  Right now though, he may still be far away from being ready to play in the NBA.  Still, that he is able to contribute in a fairly high level professional league at such a young age could enable him to be a draft-and-stash candidate late in the second round in the 2022 draft.

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