The Los Angeles Lakers are going to need to get creative to revitalize the team’s roster in order to get back to being a title contender. There is a growing buzz around the NBA that the Lakers are a potential landing spot for Magic center Mo Bamba.
During a conversation with Heavy.com’s NBA insider Sean Deveney, one Western Conference executive suggested that the Lakers are a contender to land Bamba this summer. The situation is admittedly complicated as Bamba is a restricted free agent, meaning Orlando has the option to match any offer for the former No. 6 draft pick. The Lakers do not have any cap space this offseason and would have to pull off a sign-and-trade to acquire Bamba.
“The Magic will have some options with Bamba, he played well especially down the stretch of the season for them,” the exec detailed. “But he figures to be the odd man out. There will be a good push for a sign-and-trade, he probably won’t come at too high a price because we have not seen him deliver consistently. But a decent young player and a pick and that could work. A lot of teams are going to consider taking a stab at him.
“…The Lakers have a couple of problems if they were to be serious about getting him. You’ve got to give up a first-round pick to get him, and they don’t have any. You also have to give up a player. Who? Talen Horton-Tucker? And the pick in 2026 or 27? You’re putting all your assets into him. They also have to be worried about being hard-capped with the luxury tax, but we’ll see how that plays out. THT and that pick could be something they have to consider.”
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The Lakers, Knicks & Bulls Are All Contenders for Bamba, Says NBA Exec
The Lakers will have competition if they hope to sign Bamba as the executive also mentioned the Bulls and Knicks as teams interested in adding the seven-footer. The good news for the Lakers is the Magic are likely open for business on Bamba after winning the No. 1 pick. Orlando signed Wendell Carter Jr. to a contract extension last October and are now poised to add another big man with the top selection. The Magic will likely be choosing the best big man among Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Duke’s Paolo Banchero.
Bamba’s restricted free-agent status gives the Magic ultimate control over his future. Under first-year head coach Jamahl Mosley, Bamba played a lot of power forward next to Carter but his long-term fit in Orlando is clunky at best given the team’s depth chart. Bamba still managed to have the best season of his four-year NBA career averaging 10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 38.1% from behind the arc.
Last season, the Magic big man showed a massive improvement as a three-point shooter as he shot 32.2% during the 2020-21 season. Bamba not only shot at an impressive clip but increased his attempts from 2.6 to four three-pointers per game.
Bamba Would Become the Latest Magic Center to Join the Lakers
General Manager Rob Pelinka is going to need to pull off a sign-and-trade to have any chance of landing a significant free agent in the offseason. This has its own challenges given the Lakers’ limited draft capital, and Talen Horton-Tucker is one of the few young assets the team can dangle in trade talks. Horton-Tucker failed to meet the lofty expectations that came with his new $30.7 million contract he signed last offseason, averaging 10 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting a dismal 26.9% from long range.
Bamba would be the latest Magic center to begin his career in Orlando only to end up in Los Angeles. The running joke after the Magic won the NBA lottery was Orlando will select the next great L.A. big man. Both Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard were previously selected by the Magic at No. 1 but later signed with the Lakers.
The Los Angeles front office faces a giant question mark at center heading into the 2022-23 season. Anthony Davis was expected to play more minutes at center last season but injuries prompted the star to only appear in 40 games. Instead, the Lakers primarily used DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard at the five but neither player turned out to be a long-term solution. The Lakers waived Jordan in March after the former All-Star fell out of favor with Frank Vogel.
Bamba represents an intriguing option for the Lakers as potentially an affordable former lottery pick who has yet to live up to the status of being a former top-10 pick. The Lakers would be banking on the idea that Bamba can thrive alongside Davis and LeBron James.