Magic reportedly will let Mo Bamba become unrestricted free agent

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There has long been a division in the Orlando Magic front office about Mo Bamba. He was a development project from the day they drafted him No. 6 back in 2018, and for three seasons that development seemed slow. Very slow. Injuries were part of it, but there were people with the Magic ready to move on.

Then last season Bamba showed up to camp in much better shape and had his best season: He played in 71 games, averaged 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds a game, shot 38.1% from 3 and blocked 1.7 shots a night. He was a solid NBA center.

The Magic are still willing to move on — they are “unlikely” to give him a $10 million qualifying offer, making Bamba an unrestricted free agent, reports Khobi Price at The Orlando Sentinel.

Part of that is the Magic have big men they like better in Wendell Carter Jr. and Moritz Wagner, and with the addition of No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero at the four both of the incumbents will play more center this season (Wagner played most of his minutes at center last season, however, Carter’s time was more split).

Orlando could go another direction and sign promising Clippers young center Isaiah Hartenstein, who would be a great fit and upgrade at the five. Marc Stein reported this on Wednesday.

It’s possible the sticking point with Bamba is the $10 million qualifying offer — Price said the Magic would be open to re-signing the big man at a lower number.

“Orlando still has an interest in bringing Bamba back and is expected to work on negotiating a new deal when free agency opens.”

Probably not if the Magic sign Hartenstein, however.

By making Bamba an unrestricted free agent, other teams looking for depth at center — Houston, Charlotte, Atlanta, Toronto, and others — could swoop in and sign him. Former Suns GM Ryan McDonough says to watch out for the Bulls.

While there is still a lot of development to do for Bamba, big men who can block shots and hit threes will get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Look for Bamba to be in a new team’s uniform next season, and if he can take a step forward from what he did for the Magic last season, he could be a steal of a pickup.