2023 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Mo Bamba has to reset himself again

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: Mo Bamba #5 of the Orlando Magic looks on against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on December 06, 2021 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: Mo Bamba #5 of the Orlando Magic looks on against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on December 06, 2021 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Mo Bamba had a lot of expectations being the sixth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Although some would say he has not lived up to expectations, he is constantly getting better. And at 24 years old, he can still become the player everyone thought he was going to be.

Bamba got his opportunity last year after struggling to crack the rotation in his first two seasons with playoff expectations heaped on the team. The franchise’s reset was a reset for Bamba.

And he took advantage of that, starting for the team last year and having a career season.

But the new season brings a new opportunity and a new role. Bamba, who seemed like he was on his way to being a starting caliber player, will have a chance to really excel with the second unit.

Mo Bamba had a stellar season last year as he reset himself with the Orlando Magic’s rebuild. After a career season, Bamba has to reset himself again in a new role to map out his career.

Career-high Bamba should have been his nickname last year as he had a career-high in every major statistical category.

He had career highs of 10.6 points per game, his first year averaging double digits. He averaged more than an assist per game for the first time at 1.2. He averaged 2.1 offensive rebounds and 8.1 rebounds per game overall. he shot 38.1 percent from three and averaged 0.5 steals per game and a monstrous 1.7 blocks.

Yes, all those were career highs and those numbers should only continue going up. Bamba has been a guy who is really working on his game and it shows in his three-point shooting.

He was not really a three-point shooter coming out of college, he made 14 in college and was not expected to be a floor spacer when he entered the NBA. This changed as he went from making 21 his rookie year to 107 this past year on efficient shooting.

He was especially efficient at catch-and-shoot threes where he shot 39.3 percent. He even made a career-high seven threes in a game this past season.

He could improve on his corner shooting where he only shot 30.3 percent. The corners are supposed to be the easy spots. It is rare you see a shooter who excels from the top of the key and the wings. But centers rarely float out to the corners with the diet of high pick and rolls the NBA favors. That is not likely to change.

Floor spacing from a big is key and the fact he adapted to this during his time in the league shows his dedication to getting better.

Three-point shooting is just the beginning of how much he has improved on offense. He was a monster on getting putbacks and second-chance points. As mentioned before he pulled in 2.1 offensive rebounds per game which was tied for 25th.

He made the most of these opportunities, converting more than most centers did on second-chance points. That is huge in today’s NBA and a huge help to the Magic.

He is also terrific around the basket. With his 7-foot height and 7-foot-10 wingspan, he is a great finisher. He shot 72.7 percent from within three feet and 62.4 percent from within 10 feet of the hoop.

He has a magnificent touch around the basket and is great at getting in a good position to make layups and dunks. He is a major lob threat and dunked the ball 85 times this year. He even added a nice post hook to his game that was very efficient.

Another thing he added to his game was running the floor. Looking at Bamba’s size and length, you would think he is slow but he was great at running the floor. This put him position to get a lot of good looks at the hoop and to make some transition threes as the trailer.

Bamba was terrific around the rim and shooting threes but he has to implement a mid-range game to be more versatile.

He made some mid-range shots and started getting more comfortable shooting off the dribble. But he was not very efficient shooting the mid-range shot. He only shot 30 percent from the mid-range and only a little more than 10 percent of his shots came from there.

Teams are expecting him to shoot threes now. He has to be more consistent from mid-range to keep defenses on their toes.

He has worked so hard and gotten better at shooting the ball and working on his game, you can only assume this is something he will work on and get better at when practices start back up.

Defensively is where Bamba really excels and where everyone envisioned his greatest impact.

His size and length is a major factor in this. His 1.7 blocks per game were ninth in the league. He is great at swatting opponents’ shots in the paint. He even had a six-block game this season.

He has never averaged fewer than 1.3 blocks per game in his career and seems to be on his way to the elite two-block per game mark. This would set him up as a top shot blocker in the league and maybe in history.

But shot blocking is not the only part of his defense that is impactful. He held opponents to 44.2 percent from the field and just 32.6 percent from three. These were career highs for him.

It is hard to get a shot off over Bamba’s long arms and size so opposing players really struggle to get their shot going when Bamba guards them.

Well, at least that is how it should be. Even though he had career highs in defensive field goal percentage, he had his second-worst defensive rating in his career.

Bamba who has a career 106 defensive rating, had a 108.1 this past season. Some of that is certainly because the Magic became a much weaker team. But Wendell Carter had a better defensive rating on the court and even when he was on the court without Bamba.

For as good of a shot blocker Bamba is, he is chasing blocks and not necessarily playing consistent deterrent defense.

This needs to improve as this is where he is supposed to excel.

Another place he can improve is fouling. He committed 182 fouls which was 42nd in the league. That is not too bad but also not great. He is a key defensive piece for the Magic, he cannot afford to get in foul trouble.

This also limits his defensive effectiveness.

What is even worse is that 114 of those fouls were shooting fouls. He can not be bailing teams out and sending them to the line for free points. The Magic were 11th in opponent’s points per game, so they can not have Bamba sending opposing players to the line that frequently.

Bamba’s defense is not only important for him but for the whole team.

The perimeter defenders can press up on opposing players and play tighter defense when they know they have Bamba protecting the paint. This allows for more aggressive defense which means fewer three-point shots and more opportunities for steals.

Bamba’s defensive presence impacts the whole game. He needs to work on defending without fouling so he can be in the game whenever he is needed.

Lastly, his defensive rebounding needs help.

Yes, it is true that he had a career-high in rebounds and defensive rebounds but the stats do not tell the whole story. He mostly got those rebounds due to his size and length and being under the basket at the right time.

He never got rebounds in congested paint situations and had trouble getting position and outrebounding other centers. You could even say he was more active in pursuing offensive rebounds than defensive.

This was also due to his paint protection.

Bamba would often go for blocks or try to help out his teammates when they were getting driven on, and this often took him out of position to grab defensive rebounds. This allowed teams to grab offensive rebounds against the Magic as well.

He needs to learn how to help contest and also go for the rebound or not to be as block excited. As a top shot blocker he tries to get blocks whenever he sees an opportunity. But sometimes it would be more beneficial to just slide over and show like he is going to block but still stay in position to rebound.

He is known as a shot blocker around the league so even his presence should make opposing players think twice about shooting or at least alter their shot. He does not need to leave his feet all the time.

Then again, some metrics suggest teams are not afraid to challenge him at the rim at all, taking the chance he will block a shot knowing they could either get him out of position or draw a foul.

All this being said there should be no worry or concern about Bamba’s game. He is constantly improving and showing new and improved skills every year, especially as he plays more. Bamba is a hard and dedicated worker who has expanded his game significantly over his career.

Offensive and defensively he has done a lot of great things but has shown room for improvement as many young players do. But he has shown that he is willing to learn and get better and that is exactly what he has done.

Still, things are constantly changing around him. He has a fresh two-year contract now that he has graduated from his rookie deal. But the Magic are still changing and shaping differently around him.

His role may very well change once again. He could be one of the top backup centers in the league though.

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Bamba has been getting better every year and will only continue to improve. There should be excitement in the organization and for fans as Bamba looks like he can live up to expectations and be a great piece for an improving Magic roster.