The last time I checked in with the Orlando Pinstriped Post, I was discussing the odds and decision of the Orlando Magic to possibly take Oklahoma’s Trae Young or Alabama’s Collin Sexton with their sixth overall pick. For any fans that read through the whole article, at the end I made my final point clear: if Mohammed Bamba or Jaren Jackson Jr. is still on the board at pick six, there should be no hesitation in snagging whichever one is there.
Fast forward to after the 2018 NBA Draft. This might be tough to read and bear for those fans who were anticipating and hoping for the Magic to draft Young or Sexton, but I can assure you, after reading this you’ll wake up tomorrow morning with as much excitement and enthusiasm for Orlando Magic Summer League basketball and the 2018-2019 regular season as me.
Bamba was still available when Orlando was on the clock in the first round of Thursday night’s draft. Young wasn’t. Jackson Jr. wasn’t. John Hammond, Jeff Weltman, and the rest of the Orlando front office staff made the smart decision to steal Bamba with their sixth overall pick, despite the criticism of fans, analysts, and media on Orlando’s crowded frontcourt and lack of depth at the point guard position.
Analyzing the events of the past two weeks, the Magic knew they weren’t the only ones interested in Young. The Atlanta Hawks were dialed in on snagging Young with their third overall pick for the past two weeks, and with the unsettledness of current point guard Dennis Schroder, it seemed even more likely.
At least 30 minutes before draft time, the first five picks are usually already decided or nearly official, hence the reason ESPN’s NBA analyst Adrian Wojnarowski can break the news of picks so early, so long as he uses the proper verbs (ex: the Knicks are lasered in on Porzingis vs. the Knicks will take Porzingis).
Knowing this, the Magic could’ve proposed trades to the Hawks or Mavericks to move up and send Young to Orlando, but they went with a smarter move and saved their assets for something else that I think the Magic are planning (I’ll get to this in a second).
From a big board standpoint, Bamba is a better and more intriguing prospect than Young or Sexton, so there was no reason why they shouldn’t have wanted Bamba over those two guards in the first place. Every fans first concern is that the “league isn’t a bigman league anymore” or “bigs won’t win you championships”. Good thing Bamba and the rest of the frontcourt of the Magic are different types of bigmen.
Bamba is 7’0” ft tall with an outstanding 7’10” wingspan. His standing reach is a freakish 9’7”. Not only is he long and athletic but these physical attributes allow him to be a disruptive force on the defense end. Bamba’s reach allows him to guard almost both sides of the basket, especially since he’s nimble on his feet. He blocks shots in his sleep. Bamba has the potential Defensive Player of the Year package.
He scored the majority of his buckets and produced most of his offense underneath the basket or with his back to it, but he’ far from being just an inside guy. The 14 three-pointers he made in college makes my case sound deceiving, but since the college basketball season ended, Bamba has participated in multiple pre-draft workouts and training sessions, a lot of which was filmed and made viewable to the public. It was then analysts and scouts alike, realized his true mold. He was knocking down jumpers with ease was displaying a post game that mirrors Joel Embiid. That being said, he’s got Giannis Antetokounmpo physical characteristics at the center position, defense with the potential to mirror that of Anthony Davis and Rudy Gobert someday, and proved he has the ability to run and stretch the floor as well as Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Porzingis, and Nikola Jokic. It’s as if Jokic became a proven defender but lost his passing ability.
Bamba is still raw like most rookies and has some weaknesses that pertain to his strength and offensive consistency, so he’s not completely developed, but neither is the Magic. In a few years his development into a DPOY candidate and All-Star caliber talent will mirror the rebuilt Magic.
I understand it’s not a bigman league anymore, but we saw Anthony Davis and the Pelicans compete with the best teams in the league this year during the Western Conference Playoffs. On the other hand, teams that mirror the shooting and shot-creating abilities and offense of the Golden State Warriors would get over the hump with guys like Bamba, Davis, Porzingis, Markannen, and Cousins. Take the Portland Trailblazers for instance, point guard Damian Lillard could have an All-star and All-NBA season if he wants, and combo it with an impressive 21 ppg from shooting guard C.J. McCollum, and Portland still has come up short in the playoffs for five straight seasons. They still need an impact stretch big that can not just provide offense, but also provide defense. The Magic got what a lot of teams like the Trailblazers and Washington Wizards are missing.
For those readers that are still following along in this mess of an analysis, I promised my theory on what the Magic are (or should) be saving their assets for, most notably a move for a point guard this summer or before the trade deadline next season. But change of plans. That’ll be the focal point of my next piece, so stay updated with your Orlando Pinstripe Post, and pick your heads-up Magic fans, this summer begins a new era for the Magic with a roster full of high-flyers, athletic freaks, long and switchable defenders, and bigmen with the capabilities to stretch the court.