Amar Sylla was born on 1 October 2001 in Dakar, Senegal. Sylla attended the SEED Academy in Senegal until he moved to Spain in 2015. He played at three ANGT’s for Real Madrid and made the All-Tournament team at ANGT Munich in the 2018/19 season. In June 2019, Sylla signed with Oostende in Belgium on a three year deal with an NBA opt-out clause. This season he averaged 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1 block in 20.2 minutes per game as Oostende were champions of the Belgium League.
Sylla has attended the Basketball Without Borders Africa camp in 2018 and also attended the Basketball Without Borders Global camp in 2019. He has represented Senegal at both the junior and senior levels. In 2018, Sylla was a key piece at the U18 Africa Championships as Senegal finished second. Then in 2019, Sylla played at the U19 World Cup as Senegal struggled and finished fifteenth. Sylla made his debut for the senior team in November 2020 at the Afrobasket Qualifiers.
Sylla is listed at 6’9 and 190 pounds or 206cm and 86kg. He possesses excellent length with a roughly 7’3 wingspan. He is thin and has a rather skinny frame. His legs are skinny and doesn’t have much lower body strength. Footwork can be clumsy in short spaces. Balance isn’t the best and is often quite upright with a high centre of gravity.
Sylla is a great athlete for his size. He pops vertically off either one foot or both feet but favours jumping off two feet. When moving he is still able to get up quickly and requires very little load up time. His second jump is usually quick. He moves well from side to side and when backpedalling. When running in a straight line he is exceptionally quick. Can cover a lot of ground in a short period but also has a high top end speed.
In the half court Sylla is mainly used as a screener who dives to the rim. He usually makes minimal contact on screens and then slips straight to the rim. When he is rolling to the rim he is a lob threat with his vertical pop and length. Sylla can get bumped around by the help defender at the rim and it forces him to try and finish at tough angles. Added strength and balance is required to succeed as a roller in the NBA. He usually controls his body well enough to get a look when off balance even if he is falling down. His hands could improve which would help him finish better by gathering and going up with the ball quicker.
Sylla is left hand dominant as a finisher in the paint. His touch isn’t very soft but he has shown that he can make some floaters and little hook shots out of the restricted area. I would say his touch is below average for a big. He is able to extend out and around defenders at times to finish. Sylla’s length and athleticism will be key for him to succeed as a finisher in the NBA. He has shown the ability to explode to the rim by extending up and over people to dunk on them. As the season has gone on this year Sylla has adapted to more of an interior game and this has shown he can use his body and drawing fouls even though he is lacking strength.
Sylla isn’t very useful as a post player. If he does catch the ball with his back to the basket he will usually just turn over his right shoulder and shoot a hook with his left hand. He doesn’t have the strength or centre of gravity to back anyone down. The lack of touch is rather problematic for him as a post player. His footwork is also rather clumsy around the rim. With Sylla’s size, lack of strength and poor touch I doubt he will ever be utilised as a post player in the NBA.
Here are some examples of Sylla as a power finisher and below that are some examples where he is laying the ball up and relying on his touch.
Right now, Sylla is a bad shooter. Last season he shot 18/82 (22%) on threes in Belgium and in the Champions League. This season he shot 7/41 (17%) on threes in Belgium and in the Champions League. As the season has gone on Sylla has been shooting less and less threes. The majority of the threes he takes are open standstill threes but there are the occasional attempts coming off some slight movement. There has been the occasional step back three but this is rare.
Sylla has a southpaw lefty style shooting form. His knees bend rather noticeably inwards. Sylla’s feet are rather close together and both face over towards his right side, this is worse when shooting from corners. His shoulders can also face towards the right, similar to his feet but not as bad. He has a slight jump and usually jumps forward with a slight leg drift where his left leg drifts slightly further forward than his right does. When bringing the ball up he tends to bring the ball up from his right side and it comes across his face. He releases the ball on the way up. Usually he shoots a smooth one motion style shot but has set the ball above his forehead before. Too often his guide hand is on top of the basketball. After releasing the ball his shooting hand (left hand) will face out to the left and his guide hand (right hand) will face out to the right. After releasing the ball he does a good job of holding his follow through.
Sylla’s long term shooting outlook has some promise. He has attempted a decent amount of threes in the past which is promising but the percentages have been awful. His touch isn’t a strength. From the free throw line Sylla has been decent for a young big, over his career he is 141/219 (64.4%). This includes free throw shooting from four years ago and Sylla has improved since then. Right now the only type of jumpshots Sylla takes are open standstill threes, mid range jumpshots where he has faced up or is open in the mid range after slipping a screen. At some point he should be able to make standstill threes. It is likely that if this happens it will be on a below average percentage and volume.
Sylla has mainly only showed some flashes of playmaking. This season Sylla totalled 22 assists and 45 turnovers for an AST/TO ratio of 0.49. When he is creating for himself it mainly comes attacking off the catch. At junior levels for Senegal when he was asked to play the 3 he was creating more advanced offense for himself but was never efficient. When handling the ball he tends to dribble himself in to corners or towards reaching hands. He can get himself trapped and then turns the ball over. Sylla’s handle isn’t good enough for him to be trying to beat a defender and definitely not against a set defense. He suffers from clumsy and poor footwork which makes it difficult to do anything off the dribble.
As a passer, again, Sylla has shown some flashes but this isn’t consistent. He has shown that he can sometimes make a high low pass from the perimeter. A lot of the time he doesn’t have any idea of how hard to throw a pass. He also throws innacurate passes too often. Almost all of his passes are telegraphed. He takes far too long to pass. Even when a teammate is open and he sees that they are open he will take his time. His processing speed is slow but it also seems like he is picturing in his head what pass to make and how to throw it. He will need serious improvements in passing ability, awareness and vision to be useful as a passer in the NBA.
Sylla suffers from a lack of strength when defending in the post. He often gets overpowered by bigger and stronger 4s and 5s. He is slightly undersized when being asked to guard true centers. Bigger and stronger players are able to muscle him to the rim. However, Sylla is able to get up vertically and use his length to contest them. He doesn’t always jump for blocks though and does use his verticality to go straight up. I have concerns constantly asking him to do this at the NBA level unless he gets stronger.
On the perimeter Sylla has shown the potential to move his feet and hang with smaller, quicker guards. He flips his hips quickly but bites too easily on fakes at times. When he is sliding he could work on cleaning up his technique as he can take some poor angles but overall he slides well. His movement can look strange with the angles of his legs but he does cover a lot of ground when required. Sylla is often able to force the smaller players to give the ball up and if they do beat him then he can cover the ground and contest or block their shot. His outstanding athleticism is also seen in transition where he hustles and is able to get back in to plays to alter shots at the rim.
As a help defender Sylla is great at keeping his head on a swivel to rotate and protect the rim. His length and athleticism are really useful in these situations as he makes up ground quickly, gets up high and blocks shots that other players are physically incapable of blocking. The timing on blocks is excellent. I would like to see him rotate earlier because he does rely on his athleticism to make up ground and block shots. I haven’t seen Sylla play in person in a couple of years but on film you do notice him communicating with teammates and pointing out switches when he is down low as a help defender. Ideally in the NBA he would be used to protect the rim as a help defender from the weak side.
With Sylla’s physical tools and athleticism he is able to defend in the PnR in multiple ways. He can cover a lot of ground in short bursts with his explosive movement which make him valuable when showing or hedging on a PnR. His long arms help to deter passes in these situations. He does a good job at preventing penetration. When the ball handler turns the corner on a screen Sylla is great at moving backwards and defending two players. He can break up plays with his impressive ability to jump on the move. Sylla is probably at his worst in PnR in drop coverage which is quite convenient as NBA guards are great at exploiting this. While his length and athleticism help him he does lack a bit of size and he tends to invite drives to the rim when dropping.
His pursuit of the ball when rebounding is good. On the offensive end he will fight to keep the ball alive. He can crash the glass from the perimeter. His length is really useful to tip the ball to keep it alive without committing over the back fouls. Sylla has a great second jump allowing him to grab tipped rebounds. He has a great motor and hustles well after the ball. When rebounding defensively, Sylla tends not to box out and relies on his athleticism to grab rebounds. He can get overpowered by stronger players but this is where he relies on his vertical pop and length.
While it’s not something you always want your big man to be doing Sylla excels when he has the chance to get out in transition. If he isn’t in a position to get a rebound he is incredibly quick and can often beat his man down the floor. His threat as a lob target makes him a threat in transition.
Amar Sylla is a raw prospect with amazing physical tools and athleticism. There are some questions with Sylla’s game. These mainly come from what does he do in an NBA offense. Right now, he isn’t a good shooter and I’m not too confident he will be, at least for a while. Non playmaking bigs who are exclusively rim rollers do have a role in the league. They just aren’t always in a high demand. However, there is a clear avenue for success in the NBA for Sylla defensively as a weakside rim protector and by being switchable in PnR. If he is able to add strength, switch on defense to an extent while protecting the rim and then develop his perimeter skills he will have a very successful career.
I would like a team to draft Sylla somewhere in the second round. While he may not pan out to be an NBA player I believe he is worth betting on due to his defensive potential with his athleticism and physical tools. Even though he is raw I think he could surprise and get minutes in the NBA earlier than expected as a rim protecting rim roller with his athleticism. Teams may initially consider him as a draft and stash candidate. I think the best situation for Sylla is somewhere where he can develop his body while still playing regular minutes. This could be overseas in a league that only plays 1 or 2 games a week or in America, getting experience in NBA training settings and then getting G League minutes during the season.