Orlando Magic re-signing Mo Bamba was the right move

Apr 10, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Miami Heat center Omer Yurtseven (77) defends Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba (5) during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Miami Heat center Omer Yurtseven (77) defends Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba (5) during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

Free Agency has tipped off, and the Orlando Magic have answered their biggest free agency question by re-signing Mo Bamba to a two-year, $21 million deal.

The Magic headed into free agency with the need to find a backup center, and regardless of players like Isaiah Hartenstein being on the market, bringing back Mo Bamba was going to be the right move all along.

All the reasons pointed to Bamba on and off the court when it came to the backup center spot. The Magic talked about keeping continuity on the roster while building their culture moving forward.

Bamba made it clear after the season that he wanted to be a part of what Orlando was building.

On the court, Bamba was the only player in the league to have more than 100 blocks and 100 three-point field goals made while shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc.

The ability to spread the floor and protect the rim are valuable skills that Bamba brings to the table. It would have been a mistake to let him go.

Especially as Bamba was starting to come into his own.

With a clearly defined role and a chance to start, Bamba started to flourish. He averaged a career-high 10.6 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game and 1.7 blocks per game in 25.7 minutes per game and 71 games played.

Bamba thrived in that stability. The first thing Jamahl Mosley did when he was hired in Orlando was to get on the court and work with his new big man. That kind of confidence and a fresh start was exactly what Bamba needed.

Fully healthy and with his team’s backing, Bamba started to show what made him the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He was active going across the lane to go for blocks and comfortable in his role as a floor spacer and 3-point shooter.

There is still a lot of work for him to do. He is still largely a perimeter player and the Magic’s defense was not appreciably better with Bamba on the floor — 111.3 defensive rating with Bamba on the floor compared to a 110.7 defensive rating with Bamba off the floor.

But the Magic have been invested in his growth and saw him take steps forward this year. It is clear that there were few options on the market that they would rely on and they rewarded their investment as much as they rewarded the guy they know.

To Bamba’s credit, he spoke throughout the whole season, especially at the end of the season, about his desire to see this rebuild through and how much he wanted to stay integrated with his teammates. Bamba has stayed in Orlando, for the most part, working out until free agency began.

While Mo Bamba is likely coming back to Orlando understanding his role playing as the backup center with the team adding another forward in Paolo Banchero with the first overall pick, it should be noted Bamba is also capable of starting games with the chance that Wendell Carter may miss time. Carter played a career-high 62 games last season. Bamba has the skill sets needed to be a starter while Carter misses games.

And certainly, Bamba’s versatility to start alongside Carter will be valuable.

Bamba entered the league as something of a unicorn. Teams ogled at his 7-foot-10 wingspan and shot-blocking ability to go with his ability to step to the outside and hit threes. It is easy watching Bamba play to see all that potential is still there.

He still needs some time to put it all together. The Magic will give him two more years to see him further develop. Comfort won out and the Magic know exactly what they are getting in Bamba — and what they hope to get.

The Magic are not likely done making deals this offseason — the team has just recently agreed to terms with Gary Harris for a two-year, $26-million deal — whether it be trades or other signings coming. But the Magic answered their biggest question with Mo Bamba.

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Going forward into the next season Bamba will have the chance to answer his questions while proving the Magic right.