Remember early in the season when some voices were calling Indiana's Mackenzie Mgbako unplayable? Those voices have progressively turned into mumbles as time has gone on, and the sound of crickets outweighed the silence of those opinions following the freshman's big night in the Big Ten matchup last night between IU and Minnesota.
There have been a few outliers (Morehead State, Nebraska and Ohio State), but since the first 5 games of his collegiate career Mgbako has been quietly terrific. In those 12 games, he has accrued nightly averages of 12.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists on solid shooting splits of 42.3 FG%/38.9 3%/82.5 FT%. It has been refreshing to witness his individual growth through the team's see-sawing slate of performances.
So, are we ready to re-insert Mgbako back into NBA draft discussion? Perhaps, but we still need further evidence that he can sustain a high level of play before we jump the gun with that. However, he was tabbed in the mid-late first round category prior to the start of the 2023-2024 season, so he obviously has the tools to get back to that territory. It also helps that the NBA world has grown enamored with his player prototype. Mgbako is a solid 6'8", 215 pound wing with lanky arms (6'10" wingspan and an 8'10" standing reach) who can fill it up on the offensive end. He leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end, but the hope is that his physique will aid in bandaging those shortcomings.
One current NBA ball player with a strong resemblance to Mgbako is Houston Rockets veteran swingman Reggie Bullock. Bullock is a 6'6", 205 pound journeyman whom was originally selected by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 25th pick in the 2013 NBA draft. When he entered the league out of the University of North Carolina, he had a lot of potential in the areas of defense and shot-making.
Currently in the midst of his 11th NBA season, Bullock has career averages of 23.3 minutes, 7.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.6 steals. He has also shot over 38% from beyond the arc in his 528 career games (294 starts). Those numbers may not exactly jump off the page, but he is the type of wing that can be useful within any rotation. He never needs the ball in his hands/plays drawn up for him to be effective. He has always simply let the game come to him offensively and been willing to take on the toughest matchups defensively.
Some may find this comparison to be a bit of a low-ball connection for Mackenzie Mgbako, but we must remain rational when drawing these affiliations. If he were to blossom into an NBA superstar, Hoosier fans would assuredly rejoice. But even if he were to develop into a steady role player similar to Bullock, the collective fanbase would remain proud of his future growth. For now, let's all just appreciate Mackenzie Mgbako's present growth as it continues to unfold right before our eyes.