After drafting Texas center Mohamed Bamba, the Orlando Magic are beginning to restore hope, here’s why.
Thursday nights NBA Draft, was one of the most highly anticipated drafts in recent years and it did not disappoint. Since the Phoenix Suns landed the number one overall pick back in May, Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton had been tipped to be drafted by the Suns, but outside of Ayton, the rest of the draft was wide open.
Orlando had several glaring needs heading into the draft, a rim protecting center and a point guard who could run the offence and spread the floor. Rumours had begun to circle leading up to Thursday night, with Orlando eyeing a deal to move up to the 3rd or 4th overall pick, hoping to land either Luka Doncic or Trae Young.
The Atlanta Hawks drafted Luka Doncic 3rd overall, sending him to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young who was drafted 5th and a future draft pick. Any hopes of landing either one of the best guards in the draft had gone before the Magic were on the clock. But that meant somebody was going to slip a few places and for the Magic, it could potentially be the slice of luck the team has been looking for, for 6 years.
Adam Silver announced “with the 6th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft the Orlando Magic selects Mohamed Bamba’. I wrote before the draft that if Mohamed Bamba was available when the Magic were on the clock, that I thought Jeff Weltman and John Hammond would draft the big man without hesitation. The decision was made easier with both Doncic and Young off the board but Bamba fits the profile of what Weltman and Hammond look for in a player.
At 7’1, Bamba measured an incredible 7’10 wingspan during the NBA Draft Combine, making him one of the longest players to ever get drafted. In college, Bamba had displayed elite rim protection, something the Magic had desperately been searching for over the past few years. While scoring and finding a point guard are still near the top of the Magic’s needs, having the chance to draft a guy with Bamba’s size, athleticism and potential was too great to pass on.
Last season, Jonathan Isaac shown flashes of his defensive potential with his shot blocking, his ability to guard multiple positions and overall instincts. Orlando may have put together one of the NBA’s most daunting defensive front courts, pairing Bamba with Isaac and Aaron Gordon. The Magic were at times, awful defensively allowing teams to score around the basket easily, especially in the 4th quarter, ranked 29th in opponents points in the paint.
Drafting Mohamed Bamba, now creates another logjam in the front court with Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, Khem Birch, Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon, but I would not expect that to be the case once training camp comes around in September. Vucevic is in the last year of his contract and has been widely rumoured to get traded since the season ended and Khem Birch has a team option for the 2018/19 season, so I expect one of them to be moved on in the coming months.
After hiring Steve Clifford as the new Head Coach, the Magic are beginning to form a real identity, a team I expect to be a top 10 defence next season with the addition of Bamba, second round pick Melvin Frazier to fit alongside Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon. But I do expect Mo to come off the bench behind Bismack Biyombo to start the season unless he outplays Biz during preseason.
Personally, I’m really encouraged with the position Orlando are in, a year after Weltman and Hammond were hired. They hired an experienced, defensive minded head coach in Steve Clifford, who has a track record of developing players and building good defensive teams, they drafted two long, athletic big men with a ton of potential in Bamba and Isaac to fit alongside Aaron Gordon, who will turn 23 before the season, with All Star potential.
On top of that, we only have 2 more years before we are finally out of a cap hole in the summer of 2020, with potentially a ton of cap space. Bismack Biyombo, Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, DJ Augustin will all be expired and only 1 year remaining of Evan Fournier’s deal. That timeline fits perfectly with 2-3 years of better player development under the new regime and will have us looking around for some top free agents in 2020 and 2021, which include players like Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis to name a few.
But Mohamed Bamba, like Jonathan Isaac and the return of Aaron Gordon, fill me with the hope that we’re finally back on the right path towards become relevant again in the next few years.