Orlando Magic have questions to answer about the center position

Apr 11, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba (5) blocks Milwaukee Bucks guard Bryn Forbes (7) shot in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba (5) blocks Milwaukee Bucks guard Bryn Forbes (7) shot in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic had a quiet free agency period as expected with signing Robin Lopez and Moritz Wagner.

The team had limited resources with virtually only the non-taxpayer mid-level exception to spend. And most of the heavy lifting the team was going to do was going to come through the draft — which they certainly did with Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner.

Still, the Magic’s focus on shoring up their bigs was a bit surprising. With young big men Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba already present, it was clear the Magic needed at least one more center to support the roster.

And with no news the Magic have cut Dwayne Bacon, guaranteeing his contract for the 2022 season, the Magic’s roster is complete and seemingly stacked with a lot of questions throughout the roster.

The Orlando Magic’s center position is seemingly stacked now with three players the team is interested in playing. How the Magic sort through this will be a key factor to the 2022 season.

The Lopez signing brings into question how the Magic and coach Jamahl Mosley are going to handle the center position for the 2022 season. The Magic now have three centers they are surely interested in playing.

Carter was last year’s starter and seems set to be the incumbent. But he is also facing a contract year and has struggled with consistency through his first three years. Orlando still does not quite know what he might fetch in free agency.

Bamba also is entering a contract year too. He has struggled with injuries and a new coach could give him the spark he needs to recapture his potential. But it is hard to know exactly what Bamba can give the team with the struggles he has had to collect minutes through the first three seasons of his career.

And then there is the reliable veteran in Lopez. He came off the bench last year for the Washington Wizards but has been a reliable energy player, defender and offensive rebounder throughout his career.

Orlando certainly should feel comfortable playing all three as starters if the team needed it. The question of which two of centers will be getting minutes once the games start.

It is important to note Lopez is not a bad player by any means. He averaged 9.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in just 19.1 minutes per game. He is considered a solid defender.

Regardless of his abilities, his best attribute for this Magic team will be his veteran leadership, especially at the center position. The Magic did a good job of sprinkling veterans at each position with Michael Carter-Williams at the guard spot, Gary Harris and Terrence Ross at the wing and now Lopez at the center spot.

However, although Lopez is still a solid player, the Magic are in the middle of developing players are likely to give Bamba and Carter the minutes at the center position.

This is an important year for both players as both become free agents at the end of the year. With Mosley being a fresh set of eyes, training camp may end up being an indicator of who will be the starter to start the season.

Once Nikola Vucevic got traded, Mohamed Bamba averaged 11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He also flashed his ability to block shots at a high level and spread the floor with the ability to make threes.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

However, at times he seemed to be a step slow defensively. But as time went on, he improved with his positioning. This is his first healthy summer and will give him the time to work on both his stamina and strength, which he was able to do before this time. His ceiling is hirer than Carter’s, but he has to prove he can reach that ceiling.

Carter played well in flashes once he got to Orlando. He averaged 11.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in 26.5 minutes per game. Although Bamba may have a higher ceiling, Carter does not make the mistakes Bamba makes. He is a much better positional defender than Bamba at this time, and it is the reason some people make prefer Carter to Bamba.

This is going to be one of the tougher decisions the Magic front office has to make during this rebuild. Lopez will serve as the third center for the Magic and will play if injuries occur. Neither Bamba nor Carter has displayed the ability to stay healthy all season.

The decision between the two will come after this season comes to an end. The Magic are not likely to bring both big men back, so it is going to be up to Jeff Weltman and the rest of the front office to choose between Bamba’s potential and Carter’s steadiness.

But the Magic seemingly have a lot of good options at center to man the middle. The Lopez signing seems to have strengthened a group that had some weaknesses and still has plenty of questions as those three players develop. There will almost certainly be a point where each individual will get playing time and contribute to the team.

The question is whether the team can manage these three players and which ones they will decide to keep beyond this season.

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This is a year of evaluation and most especially at center, which could completely transform at the end of the season.