Steve Clifford may have an unexpected solution for his Mo Bamba/Nikola Vucevic juggling act.
Rather than juggle them, just put them on the court at the same time.
When the Magic drafted Bamba sixth overall, it brought into question the role of Vucevic, the incumbent center and longest tenured member of the Magic. With Vucevic being in the final year of his deal, it may not be a longterm issue. But it will be an intriguing storyline during the 2018-2019 season.
In a league prioritizing small ball and pacing, the Magic suddenly have two 7-footers within their core - one raw offensively, the other with shortcomings defensively - creating a logjam in the frontcourt. While the league goes smaller, the Magic get bigger.
Now it’s up to Clifford to balance the minutes of his returning center and prized rookie in a way that is conducive to today’s style of play.
Will Bamba replace Vucevic in the starting lineup? Will Vucevic remain a starter while Bamba is slowly developed? Will Vucevic be a season-long mentor or a mid-season trade chip?
Surely Bamba and Vucevic can’t be on the court at the same time, right?
Not necessarily. In a Q&A with John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, Clifford said he hopes to eventually have Vucevic and Bamba play together.
“One of the things that I’m hopeful of – and I don’t know if it will be this way from Day 1 – but that we will have a package of offense set to put in where they can play together some, too. I think so much of that will be dependent on whether they can play together, which I think they can. Also, it will be about how quickly Mo develops. My thinking on younger players is that you put them into roles where they can play well and that starts with minutes. Give them a role to start where they can have success and then go from there. A lot of that will play out as we get started with camp.’”
I know what you’re thinking....
<cue the DUN DUN DUNNNNN sounder>
The Magic have experimented with excess 7-footers before and...yeah, it didn’t work out too well. This, of course, is a different set of circumstances with the 20-year-old Bamba expected to undergo what will be a slow and methodical developmental process.
But, whether its Opening Night or early-April, how exactly would Bamba and Vucevic survive on the court together? While each has range, consistency issues could result in a lack of floor spacing, leading to fewer open looks and open lanes for the Magic’s primary outside threats and penetrators. The lack of mobility and athleticism on the defensive end could create mismatch nightmares for the Magic against up-tempo teams that do not regularly utilize a traditional back-to-the-basket center.
Clifford did acknowledge that if we ever do see a Bamba-Vucevic pairing, it likely won’t be right away. And the more important focus for the Magic isn’t how Bamba and Vucevic will co-exist. It’s how Bamba, once firmly entrenched in the starting lineup, will gel with fellow building blocks, Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, forming what the Magic hope will be an intimidating defensive frontcourt....
But, even if only for one season, it will be interesting to see how Clifford manages his centers’ minutes and implements the eventual transition from Vucevic to Bamba.
Do you think Bamba and Vooch could be successful while in the same lineup? Share your thoughts below...