Besides being the name of a popular song, Mo Bamba was once a highly skilled prospect out of Texas. The Orlando Magic selected the center with the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Three years later the Magic still really don’t know what they have in Bamba. Now that the Magic are in full rebuild mode, it is time to free Mo Bamba.
Free Mo Bamba
Injuries and COVID
Part of the reason why Bamba hasn’t been able to develop since he was drafted is because of injuries. During Bamba’s rookie year, he wound up missing most of the season due to a stress reaction in his left tibia. In his sophomore season, he would be diagnosed with COVID which would cause him to miss most of the year. While COVID takes two weeks to recover from normally, Bamba was considered to be a “long-hauler,” dealing with side effects even after he tested negative for the virus. This season he dealt with minor injuries such as a back strain, hamstring injury, sprained big toe, and a hip contusion. Bamba is currently healthy and NBA fans hope he stays that way.
Stuck Behind an All-Star
When Bamba was drafted, the Magic currently had an all-star center on their roster in Nikola Vucevic. This meant that Bamba would have to be a backup, unusual for a top 10 pick. The good news was that Vucevic was going to be a free agent the following summer. However, to the shock of many, the Magic resigned Vucevic to a four-year, 100 million dollar contract that summer. This all but ensured that Bamba would be nothing more than a backup for the foreseeable future. He even got demoted to the third-string center behind Khem Birch after Birch played well when Bamba was injured. Finally, with Vucevic being traded to the Chicago Bulls during the deadline and Birch being waived, the only center in Bamba’s way is Wendell Carter Jr.
Still only 22-years-old, Bamba has a lot of upside. At the NBA Draft Combine, he broke the record for the longest wingspan at 7’10 inches. His highest minutes per game average came in his rookie season where he only played 16 minutes per game. He needs to play more. On April 22, he played a career-high 28 minutes and posted a 17 point, 12 rebound double-double. Bamba fits the modern-day center mold as somebody that can block shots, shoot threes, and work out of the pick and roll. As the Magic play out the rest of their season, it’ll be interesting to see if Bamba can show that he is their center of the future. One thing is for certain, Bamba is too young and talented to be sitting on the bench for a team as bad as the Magic. It’s time to free Mo Bamba.