In 2018, the Knicks were reportedly very interested in drafting Harlem’s own Mo Bamba with the ninth pick. They never had the chance to do so as he was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the sixth pick. The Knicks did eventually sign Kevin Knox, and while it hasn’t gone terribly, it’s hard to call Bamba’s career so far a success either. There’s still a chance he could become the type of player scouts and fans thought he could be, but Bamba has struggled in his first three seasons, averaging just 6.5 ppg 5.2 rpg and 1.3 bpg in just 15.3 mpg. And just as concerning as the numbers were his injury problems – he played just 155 games in those three seasons. However, just when people started to think that Bamba might end up going bankrupt, he himself had a very solid season in the 2021-22 campaign.
Finally healthy and getting more regular minutes, Bamba hit career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and games. With averages of 10.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 1.7 bpg, Bamba doesn’t seem like a needle mover, but his skill and fit could make him an intriguing target for the Knicks. The former Texas Longhorn came into the league as a rim protector and that’s probably still his calling card. He uses his size (7’0”, 7’10” wingspan) and his great defensive instincts to block the paint well. Over his career he has averaged 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes and although he tends to have foul issues at times (4.2 fouls per 36 minutes) the eye test shows that with a little more development, he could be an intimidating force on this end.
Bamba is often able to jump after the shot due to his size and athletic ability, allowing him to contest shots well. And while he wasn’t Robert Williams or Bam Adebayo when asked to move on to smaller, faster players, he’s not a complete handicap either. But surely there are other greats who could come up with similar things. Heck, the Knicks have Jericho Sims who showed the ability to do a lot of what I just mentioned in his limited minutes last season.
However, Bamba has a skill that none of the other greats really have: the three-point shot. Sure, Taj Gibson shot 39.5% from downtown, but he only made it 15. As much as we love Gibson, we can all agree he’s probably in the team’s best interests. he doesn’t rely too much on him to move forward. At a time when shooting and the ability to space the ground are crucial, top-notch skills, Bamba’s ability to knock down three-point shots to his position (only one qualifying center shot 3P% higher last season) could do wonders for the Knicks.
At this point, we all know that Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, the Knicks’ top two scorers last season, like to attack the paint. And while Mitchell Robinson is a big vertical threat, his inability to space the floor can often get in the way. There were plenty of times last season when Randle put his head down and drove, but ran into an assist defender coming out of Robinson. And often, Randle would force a contested shot or try to force his way through traffic to get it stolen. Having a big man like Bamba will give the Knicks, and more importantly, Tom Thibodeau (who likes to play big), the ability to space the floor for their primary ball handlers while still maintaining defense and rim protection at the floor.
Another thing that was impressive with Bamba was his decision. Although he’s not a point guard and isn’t necessarily asked to make tough decisions, he seems to have a knack for making quick decisions. When he receives the ball, if he does not prepare for a three-point attempt, he often gets rid of the ball quickly. In an attack that lacked ball movement and was very ugly at times, having a big one who can make quick decisions could end up being a small but very useful change.
It was reported that the Magic should not hand him a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Knicks will have competition as the Lakers, Pelicans, Raptors, Rockets, Heat and Timberwolves are all reportedly interested in signing the young center.
Confirmation @khobi_price report that the Orlando Magic did not make a qualifying offer to Mo Bamba. Bamba will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
—Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 29, 2022
Signing Bamba certainly won’t be a priority as the Knicks have other options for big men in Robinson, Gibson (as of now) and Sims. As mentioned above, he has a habit of missing a decent number of games. But if the Knicks can convince Bamba to come home for a decent price, it could become a great investment in a young player who still has the potential to become a valuable, unique piece. And let’s not forget, getting a young asset like Bamba not only gives them more talent, but could also become another trade chip in the future.