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2022 NBA Free Agency: Any ‘Mo’ time left for Bamba in Orlando?

Orlando’s former sixth overall pick is set to hit unrestricted free agency today.

NBA: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

And you thought Orlando’s important summer was over?

Sure, the early summer started out with a bang, with the Magic winning the NBA’s Draft Lottery in mid-May. And yes, selecting forward Paolo Banchero first overall last week to kick-off the 2022 NBA Draft was the most important order of business Orlando’s front office had to execute during the offseason.

But the show continues to go on, as the NBA moves forward starting today at 6:00 PM EST with free agency.

Of course, the Magic have not been one of the more active NBA franchises during free agency in recent years. That is to be expected of a rebuilding team that is still far away from competing, and therefore doesn’t have the same appeal when it comes to signing veteran free agents as some other organizations around the league. Currently, DraftKings Sportsbook lists Orlando’s future odds to win the NBA Championship next season at +200,000, tied for the worst odds in the NBA.

Still, despite the eleven players on their roster age 25 or younger, the Magic still have some work to do on the margins to fill out the rest of their roster through free agency. Orlando will be providing and devoting as many ‘reps’, minutes, and developmental opportunities to their core group of young players as possible during the 2022-23 season, but bringing in the right veteran (or two) through free agency to balance the team’s ecosystem can still potentially go along way.

The most pressing concern for the Magic when it comes to free agency this week is center Mo Bamba’s contract situation. At 24, Orlando’s former sixth overall pick from the 2018 NBA Draft is coming of the best season of his young career in 2021-22. Bamba averaged a career-high 10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 71 games (69 starts).

A part of Bamba’s game that really started to emerge this past season was his perimeter shooting. The 7-0 big man had shown flashes of ability with his range shooting through the first three seasons of his career in Orlando, but he finally put everything together this past season. On 4.0 three-point attempts per game, Bamba shot 38.1 percent from beyond the arc in 2021-22.

The Harlem, NY native was set to become a restricted free agent this summer, but things abruptly changed yesterday afternoon when news broke via Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel that the Magic would not be extending Bamba a qualifying offer ($10.1 million for the 2022-23 season). As a restricted free agent, Orlando would have had the ability to match any offer that Bamba agreed to with another organization. But without the extension of the qualifying offer, the former Magic lottery pick is now an unrestricted free agent.

Orlando’s decision to not extend a qualifying offer to Bamba doesn’t necessarily mean he’s officially not coming back to the Magic. Perhaps the team was afraid Bamba would simply accept the $10.1 million qualifying offer for next season (in order to become an unrestricted free agent next season). Maybe they intend to bring Bamba back, and they didn’t want to risk him signing an inflated offer sheet with another team (although, that could happen anyway, and now the team doesn’t have the ability to match the offer).

Regardless, the chances of Bamba returning to the Magic now look a good deal slimmer than they were even earlier this week. Rumors have connected Bamba to interested teams such as the Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and New York Knicks (among others).

Of course, losing Bamba would create a hole at the back-up center position for the Magic. Veteran depth big man Robin Lopez is also an unrestricted free agent, and it’s unclear at this time if he will be returning. Big man Moritz Wagner, who played admirably for Orlando last season when many players were unavailable, has a non-guaranteed contract that will become fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after today. At just $1.88 million for next season, it would be a shock if the older Wagner brother was waived over the next twelve hours.

It appears that Orlando also failed to extend a qualifying offer yesterday to 7-2 big man Bol Bol. The often injured third-year forward/center was traded to Orlando this past February, but never saw the floor due to an injured right foot he had surgery on in January of 2022.

Besides Bamba and Bol, the Magic will also be potentially losing two unrestricted free agents - Lopez and veteran sharp-shooting wing Gary Harris (who was traded to the Magic in March of 2021 in the Aaron Gordon deal). Harris (27) averaged 11.1 points per game for Orlando last season, shooting 38.4 percent from beyond the arc.

The odds may be stacked against the Magic when it comes to contending next season, but could losing Bamba and Harris potentially set Orlando back even further? Or can they find replacements for any lost rotation players relatively easily? Let us know what you’re thinking about free agency in the comments section below.

Stay locked-in to Orlando Pinstriped Post for more updates as free agency begins today. And feel free to follow us on Twitter at @OPPMagicBlog for additional updates.

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Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.