With the 6th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, the Orlando Magic selected Mohamed Bamba from the University of Texas. Similar to drafting Jonathan Isaac last year, fans seem polarized on the choice. The controversy around Bamba lies in his abilities, of course. The New York-born center fits a mold that’s responsible for why the Magic have been so weak. Drafting for physical qualities over measurable talent is why Bamba was a bad pick.
Why Mo Bamba Was a Bad Pick for the Orlando Magic
Part of why selecting Bamba was a poor choice is because the Magic could have pursued other options. The Magic were in a great position to trade either up or down in the draft. The team is nowhere near competing. Trading back would’ve helped them collect more lottery picks to develop as they search for a star. Additionally, trading up for Trae Young would have been a higher upside move.
What the Magic Should Have Done
The first thing to look at is what options Orlando had besides staying at 6. One thing that comes to mind is trading up. Both Atlanta and Memphis were listening to trade offers for the 3rd and 4th picks, respectively. Ultimately, Atlanta traded their pick with Dallas, and for not that much of a cost.
It’s likely Orlando could’ve done the same thing with Memphis. Had Orlando given up a small price, they could’ve acquired Trae Young before Atlanta snagged him at 5 (from Dallas). That would have been a real dagger in the heart for Atlanta, who traded back with intent to still get Young. Moreover, Jaren Jackson Jr. would have likely still been available for Memphis. Their asking price to trade would have been low. This would’ve secured Trae Young for Orlando, who will be a much better player.
Could Orlando Have Traded Back?
This question is tough to consider. There was speculation that Orlando could have given the 6th pick to the Clippers for the 12th and 13th picks. It’s hard to say what else would be in the trade. But Orlando should’ve certainly considered. Michael Porter Jr. was available at those picks. Taking a risk on his injury history would have been worth his huge upside. Having another pick with him would mitigate that.
Bamba Was A Bad Pick In General
Many are in love with the Bamba pick. Some have compared him to Rudy Gobert. This is mostly due to his role as a defensive anchor with physically astounding qualities. However, there is enough reason to argue that Bamba doesn’t have the ability like Gobert. Moreover, even if he did, that mold doesn’t make for good match-ups in today’s NBA.
A major takeaway from this year’s playoffs is that Gobert can be a poor match-up center against a modern NBA team like the Houston Rockets. James Harden and Clint Capela made easy work of Utah’s star center. Likewise, Bamba will struggle with offenses in today’s NBA.
Even with the new front office, the strategy for Orlando seems to be the same. Acquire physically impressive and athletic players with defensive upside. Almost every player the Magic have selected the last several years have had very unpolished offensive abilities. Bamba is no exception. His poor shooting paired with weak footwork and penchant for turnovers mean Orlando will remain near the bottom of league offense.
Even Bamba’s supposed strengths should be highly suspect. While Bamba rebounded well in college, a major concern of his is the ability to get up on second jumps. While his wingspan makes up for this in some ways, he may struggle to get up for second bounces in the NBA. Additionally, his physicality is a huge problem.
Bamba has a really tough time elevating himself in traffic. As a center, that’s a massive issue. He takes a long time to get off the floor and is usually bodied out by other players in the post. A center this physically gifted should have no trouble with explosiveness. So his struggle to do so should raise some eyebrows.
Bamba’s pick-and-roll Defense
Despite a huge amount of defensive ability, there’s one area of Bamba’s game that should really concern Magic fans. Bamba’s pick-and-roll defense ranked in the 32nd percentile while in college, which is just average. He has a problem of recovering too slowly, which will only get worse in the NBA.
Moreover, his general awareness of pick-and-rolls is really poor. He gets lost in screens and may struggle to adjust to NBA defensive schemes for pick-and-rolls. Poor screen defense will be a major boon for Bamba in a league where such plays are so prominent.
Bamba’s Ultimate Effect
Unfortunately, the Magic are far from contending no matter what. Most other players wouldn’t have changed that. However, Bamba won’t help the Magic escape the league’s basement.
Bamba was a bad pick for many reasons. Ultimately, his poor mold in today’s league, lack of offense and overrated defensive ability will be what makes him a bad pick. The potential and upside certainly exist, but Magic fans should know by now what that phrase really means.
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