Predicting which Orlando Magic players can contend for future awards

Jonathan Isaac's most impressive performance came against the Dallas Mavericks in November. It proved the Orlando Magic forward can make a leap. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jonathan Isaac's most impressive performance came against the Dallas Mavericks in November. It proved the Orlando Magic forward can make a leap. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Wendell Carter, Orlando Magic
Wendell Carter has made the most of his early opportunity with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Mohamed Bamba or Wendell Carter: Most Improved Player

The Orlando Magic have two young big men with a lot to prove and a contract year facing them during the 2022 season. Especially if the Magic elect not to bring in another big man through the draft or free agency.

Since Khem Birch’s departure, Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba have been jockeying for position as the team’s best center. This trial by fire will give us an understanding of which player will show the greatest opportunity for a breakout.

The Magic have a storied history of developing athletic big men into dominant forces. With the lack of competition, one of these two has the potential of developing into the next franchise cornerstone if they improve upon their areas of weakness in the offseason:

Mohamed Bamba

After almost two and a half years of inconsistent playing time, Mohamed Bamba has finally gotten an expanded role from Steve Clifford — playing a career-high 19.1 minutes per game in the month of April.

Bamba has definitely shown flashes of his potential since the trade deadline, flashing an effective three-point shot (42.9 percent from three in April) and a knack for shot-blocking that was his calling card in college.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Playing time was a big impediment for him — he played only 9.4 minutes per game in 17 appearances before the All-Star Break. Since the break, Bamba has played 18.8 minutes per game, averaging 10.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game to go along with 1.5 blocks per game. His production has scaled up.

Bamba is a physical specimen. Ideally, his length at the center position and his shooting prowess should combine to make him a versatile two-way player that can complement Johnathan Isaac once he returns from injury.

With that being said, Bamba has several areas of his game that he needs to improve in order to become a player that can compete for Most Improved Player. Bamba’s slim figure has cost him in his ability to defend stronger players as well as hindering his ability to score in the post.

Luckily for Bamba, this year has given him something that he has not been afforded since he was drafted by the Magic: an opportunity to play.

If Bamba can work on his strength and become a player that can incorporate physical tools into both his offensive and defensive game, Bamba could be in line for a breakout year.

Wendell Carter

Where Mohamed Bamba is at a disadvantage in physical situations, Wendell Carter shines.

Carter has brought a physical presence to the Magic since the trade deadline and expanded opportunities have shown some of the potential that made him a lottery pick a few years ago.

Carter is a bully in the paint and asserts his dominance in the post at almost every opportunity. According to Basketball-Reference, more than half of Carter’s shot attempts come within 5 feet of the rim — a sign of his affinity for post offense and short range scoring.

Carter is almost a mirror image of Bamba in terms of skill set and areas of improvement. Where Bamba’s shooting stroke is a strength of his game, Carter struggles mightily with his shooting (32-percent three point shooting for the season). And his post offense is spotty — he is averaging 0.63 points per possession on post-ups since joining the Magic, according to’s tracking stats.

Carter’s advantage over Bamba, in terms of projecting who is most likely to win Most Improved Player, is Carter’s confidence. At this stage of their respective careers, it is apparent Carter is much more confident than Bamba and has a feel for the game (especially on defense) that Bamba has not achieved yet.

Part of this could be due to playing time — Carter had a significant role on the Chicago Bulls over his 2.5 seasons there.

Regardless, the center of the future for the Magic will be a strong candidate for Most Improved Player next season.