Heat Targeting Former No. 6 Pick in Free Agency: Report

Pat Riley, Miami Heat president

Getty Pat Riley, Miami Heat president

The Miami Heat were thrown for a loop in the last few weeks as word spread that veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be a target for the Philadelphia 76ers in NBA free agency and would welcome a reunion with star guard James Harden and general manager Daryl Morey. In need of another big man, the Heat could go hunting within their own state and pluck Orlando Magic free-agent forward/center Mo Bamba.

Orlando Sentinel beat writer Khobi Price reported that the Magic are not expected to tender Bamba a qualifying offer, a move that would make him an unrestricted free agent, with the Heat a potential landing spot.

Bamba was the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft, selected just after the star trio of Luke Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young. He struggled to find his footing in the NBA during his first three seasons, but had a breakthrough last year, when he averaged 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds, making 38.1% of his 3-pointers and blocking 1.7 shots.

All in on Mo Bamba?

The difficult question for the Heat is whether to throw the entirety of the mid-level exception at Bamba, who will field offers from several teams. By avoiding the luxury tax for the last two years, Miami ensured it has the full use of its $10.4 million MLE, as well as a $4.1 million bi-annual exception.

The two cannot be combined. But a contract starting at $10.4 million with a championship-caliber team might be enough to entice Bamba to South Beach. The Heat do have other holes in the roster to fill, and that would be the concern—the full mid-level is a significant commitment to Bamba.

He could be a gamble worth taking.

They would like to have some younger guys to bring along, guys who are on the (Tyler) Herro-Bam kind of timeline rather than Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, the guys in their 30s,” one Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy.com. “And this is a kid that the Magic need to move off of, where you can get him right on the upswing. He did not know how he fit into the NBA before this season, but he figured it out this year. It is a good time to get into him, he would be ideal for them.”

Tucker Was a ‘Core’ Piece: Riley

Bamba is also being targeted by the Knicks, the Lakers and the Bulls, among other teams, and he could still return to the Magic. Another big man to play alongside, and behind, Bam Adebayo is a priority for the Heat should they lose Tucker, whom Miami thought would be back for next season. Tucker opted out of the second year of his contract and is now an unrestricted free agent.

Last month, during his postseason press conference, team president Pat Riley told reporters he considered Tucker (who averaged 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds last year) part of the Heat’s “core.”

“P.J. is like a cornerstone,” Riley said. “He is like, when (Udonis Haslem) was in his prime, even though UD wasn’t a primary scorer, he did things throughout the course of a game that were significant. … That’s what Tuck does. Tuck is the kind of player that doesn’t have to do a lot from a scoring standpoint but he makes so many great plays for you. He is like the cornerstone for us. Toughness, rebounding, defense, no-nonsense guy, and so I’d love to have Tuck back next year. He’s part of our core.”

But that part of the core, at least, will need to be replaced.

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Erik Schoenwetter
Erik Schoenwetter
1 month ago

Mo Bamba has already resigned with the Magic for 2 years and $21 million. Probably should pull the article

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