In 2018, the Knicks were rumored to be very interested in drafting Harlem’s very own, Mo Bamba, with the ninth pick. They never got the chance to do so as he was selected by the Orlando Magic with the sixth pick. The Knicks ended up drafting Kevin Knox, and while that didn’t go amazingly, it’s hard to call Bamba’s career so far a success either. There’s still a chance that he develops into the type of player that scouts and fans thought he could be, but Bamba struggled over 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 concerns — he played just 155 games over those three seasons. However, just when people started thinking that Bamba could be end up a bust, he had himself a very solid season in the 2021-22 campaign.
Finally healthy and getting more consistent minutes, Bamba averaged 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 skillset and fit could make him an intriguing target for the Knicks. The former Texas Longhorn came into the league being known as a rim protector and that is probably still his calling card. He uses his size (7’0”, 7’10” wingspan), and his great defensive instincts to lockdown the paint pretty well. Over his career, he has averaged 2.8 blocks per 36 min and while he does tend to get in foul trouble at times (4.2 fouls per 36 min), the eye test shows that with a bit more development, he could be an intimidating force on that end.
Bamba is often able to jump after the shot goes up due to his size and athletic ability, allowing him to contest shots well. And while he isn’t Robert Williams or Bam Adebayo when asked to switch out on to smaller and quicker players, he isn’t a complete liability there either. But surely, there are other bigs that could offer 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 one skillset that none of the other bigs really have: three-point shooting. Sure Taj Gibson shot 39.5% from downtown but he only made 15. As much as we love Gibson, we can all agree that it is probably within the team’s best interest if he isn’t relied on too heavily going forward. In an age where shooting and the ability to space the floor are a crucial and premium skillset, Bamba’s ability to knock down three-point shots at his position (only one qualifying center shot a higher 3P% last season) could do wonders for the Knicks.
Mo Bamba in 2022:— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 29, 2022
Only one center shot a higher 3P%. pic.twitter.com/rmY1CSKp1c
At this point, we all know that both Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, the two leading scorers for the Knicks last season, like to attack the paint. And while Mitchell Robinson is a great vertical threat, his inability to space the floor can often clog things up. There were many times last season when Randle would put his head down and drive but would run into a help defender who was coming off of Robinson. And often, Randle would force up a contested shot or try to force a pass through traffic only to have it stolen. Having a big man like Bamba will give the Knicks, and more importantly, Tom Thibodeau (who loves playing big), the ability to space the floor out for their main ballhandlers while still having defense and rim protection on the floor.
Another thing that was impressive with Bamba was his decisiveness. While he isn’t a playmaker and isn’t necessarily asked to make difficult decisions, he seems to have a knack for making quick decisions. When he receives the ball, if he is not setting up for a three-point attempt, he is often getting rid of the ball quickly. In an offense that lacked ball movement and was very ugly at times, having a big that can make quick decisions could end up being a small but very helpful change.
It was reported that the Magic are not expected tender a qualifying offer to him, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Knicks will have competition as the Lakers, Pelicans, Raptors, Rockets, Heat, and Timberwolves are all reported to be interested in signing the young center.
Confirming @khobi_price report that the Orlando Magic did not tender a qualifying offer to Mo Bamba. Bamba will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 29, 2022
Signing Bamba definitely will not be a priority as the Knicks have other big man options in Robinson, Gibson (as of now) and Sims. As mentioned above, he does have a history of missing a decent amount of games. But if the Knicks could convince Bamba to come home for a decent price, then it could end up being a great investment into a young player who still has the potential to become a unique and helpful piece. And let’s not forget, getting a young asset like Bamba not only gives them more talent but could end up being another trade chip going forward as well.