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Hornets Mock Trade Negotiation: Mo Bamba

The Hornets need help on the interior, and a young player buried on the bench in Orlando might be the perfect target.

Orlando Magic v Washington Wizards Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

For this series of the “Mock Trade Negotiations” At The Hive’s James Plowright is joined by Phillip Rossman-Reich the founder of “Orlando Magic Daily” and the “Locked on Magic” podcast to discuss potential trades between the two franchises.


JP Firstly I would like to acknowledge how unlucky the Orlando Magic have been this year with injuries, both Isaac & Fultz are out for the season, Gordon/Fournier/Aminu have all missed extended time. This team started the year playing great basketball, ex-Hornets coach Steve Clifford had the team playing his patented style of defensive rebounding, no fouling and limiting turnovers which has seemingly been all taken away by injuries.

Despite this, the center position remains the Magic’s “Best position by far” according to Steve Clifford when questioned by Athletic reporter Josh Robbins recently. Nikola Vucevic is playing at an all star level and is providing some serious competition for Gordon Hayward to gain that last all star team spot, former undrafted UNLV big man and Hornets killer Khem Birch is having the best year of his career and Mo Bamba the 6th pick in the 2018 draft can’t even crack the rotation. Before we get into trade discussions which will largely focus on trying to improve the centre position for Charlotte, could you give us a run down of your thoughts on the log jammed centre rotation for the Magic and what they should do?


PRR The center position has been the only part of the Orlando Magic roster that has not been touched by injury (yet). I think the whole rotation and where the Magic go next probably has to be under the context of what the team hopes to accomplish moving forward. The decisions they make are based on what they think they can achieve.

Nikola Vucevic is an All-Star-level player. I still view him as a critical part of the team moving forward. The Magic want to be back in the playoff picture next year, and it will be hard to do that without Vucevic (or at least without a hefty return for him). It is hard to replace a player who does all the things he can do.

But behind him is certainly some intrigue. Khem Birch is really good for a team that has a well-established rotation. He does all the little things that coaches love that make other players better. While his offense has improved greatly this year with a chance of mindset, he is not making too much of an impact.

Mo Bamba is clearly a player with a whole lot more potential. But being a young player with limited playing time (and now at least a small history of injury), he made a lot of mistakes. And Clifford was not going to sit through those mistakes while the team was competing for the playoffs. Especially with how long Bamba was out dealing with the remnants of COVID.

But as this season gets lost, the team has to find time for Bamba to get a picture of what they have. That makes it seem like dealing Birch at the deadline makes some sense. That would inevitably free time for Bamba and force Clifford’s hands. But the team has not reached the point of pain yet. It probably will come by the deadline.

The team clearly has some decisions to make. But, for now, Vucevic seems like a sure bet to stay on the roster and be pretty unavailable in trades barring a substantial return.


JP So reading between the lines here it looks like Vucevic is off the table unless Charlotte gives up LaMelo or multiple 1sts + young players. He would undoubtedly make the Hornets better, Charlotte hasn’t had a starting level centre who can stretch the floor since... Ever! His rebounding would also help this Charlotte team which struggles on that end, I don’t think many Hornets fans would be all that excited about Vooch but I love his game.

I don’t think Birch fits as a trade candidate in Charlotte and here is why. He is an poor defensive rebounder, ranking in the 14th percentile in the league for bigs, he also isn’t an especially good rim protector with Miles Bridges & PJ Washington providing more rim protection per cleaning the glass. On top of that Birch is a Free Agent this summer so if the team wanted him on the roster long term they could simply sign him for free in the summer, so unless Orlando wants to give him away which is unlikely I don’t see us getting anywhere.

From what it sounds like you’re behind the idea of the Magic having to make playing time for Bamba in the last two thirds of the season as the playoffs slip away. However, do you think the Orlando front office and coaching staff will share this approach? If Orlando wants to keep battling for the playoffs they need help at the guard position, luckily for them Charlotte has a glut of guys at that position to offer for Bamba. Is moving on from Aminu who has been stricken by injuries since signing in Orlando a priority to create some financial flexibility?

Let’s start the discussions with a straight swap of Monk for Bamba, what are your thoughts?


PRR The Orlando Magic’s goals are definitely hard to figure out. Jeff Weltman in his time with the team has made it very clear that he believes young players grow best when they are put on teams competing for something and in “winning environments.” That definitely jives with Steve Clifford and his approach.

But this season is in something of a limbo. With Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz out the team is kind of in stasis. I do not think the team is willing to go all in on a playoff spot — or a spot in the play-in tournament. At this point, the only reason the Magic can even think about the playoffs is because of this thing the NBA created for this season (and maybe beyond). If this was the intent of the league, mission accomplished.

Orlando though is thinking about its long-term future. Or they should be. They should be looking to make moves that will support the team’s long-term vision and shaping the team to what it will become with Isaac and Fultz at the lead (for now, the draft pick likely gets added to this “core”).

In that sense, a move to acquire Malik Monk would make a lot of sense. It fills an obvious need for the Magic and would help them tremendously both this year and beyond. Monk’s development this year has been really impressive and things have seemingly clicked for him.

I am personally not sold the front office has given up on Bamba. I am not even completely sold Clifford has given up on him — he just has a preference for Birch, for now. So I think it would still take quite a bit for the Magic to trade him. Like you said, Birch’s free agency is impending and that is a good excuse to push Bamba more next year. Maybe that is when we really find out whether the Magic like him.

On paper, I do not dislike a straight Monk for Bamba swap. It definitely fills a need for both teams and clears logjams for both young players. But. . . if I am not mistaken, Monk had a lot of the same issues cracking the rotation in Charlotte under Clifford that Bamba is having. Clifford defers to veterans (to a fault, sometimes) and I cannot see the team putting another young player in this position. Especially with a coach who has already done this to him.


JP So what other assets would Charlotte have to add to a Monk-Bamba trade to give it the green light?

I’ve also come up with some other formats of trades which might take your fancy:

Future Charlotte 1st for Mo Bamba - Charlotte is under the cap and only has 14 rostered players currently so could actually take Bamba into their cap space. We might need to discuss some pick protections but does that peak your interest?

Another option is to do Biyombo + Monk for Aminu + Bamba, now in reality Charlotte would need to cut $1.5 million in a separate move but let’s just assume that could happen. Not only are Orlando getting Monk but also freeing up some CAP space and moving on from Aminu who’s got another year left on his contract after this one and can’t stay healthy.


PPR It is a tough spot for sure. I think there is definitely some paralysis when it comes to Bamba and figuring out what to do with him. Like I said, I don’t think the Magic have given up on Bamba. I might personally do the Monk for Bamba trade (with a second or protected first coming to Orlando). But I hesitate to do that because of the history of Monk and Clifford.

I think what is far more likely is the Magic try to attach Birch with a trade involving Evan Fournier to free up that logjam at center and give Bamba more minutes.


JP Would you prefer the initial offer of Monk + a 2nd for Bamba over the other two options I put to you?


PRR Yes, I think so.


JP A protected 1st is too much for someone who we haven’t seen Proven he is an NBA rotation caliber player yet, but I’d be able to part with a BKN 2021 2nd which Charlotte control. With that on the table do we have a deal?


PRR I think that is the framework of a deal. For the purposes of this article, that probably is what it would take to get me there. I just want to put the warning that I don’t think the Magic would pull the trigger on that deal. And I think Clifford’s history with Monk would play a role in that too.


JP Well thanks Phil for taking part in this process, best of luck with the Magic for the rest of the season and continue to enjoy the Dwayne Bacon experience!


I was thrilled to come away with this deal, Monk + mid-late 2nd round pick for Bamba is the exact kind of deal I think could really help this team. Bamba is a good defensive rebounder and excellent shot blocker, Although the sample size is small there is reason for optimism with his outside shot, he shot 37% from three last year and has a good stroke. The area of concern is his ability to handle the ball in dribble handoff situation and on the short roll, his feel for the game leaves a lot to be desired. However, we’ve seen Miles Bridges make huge strides in that area in the last year, heck even Biz has shown some nice passing flashes over the season.

Mo Bamba recently showed some flashes of life putting up an impressive display against the Bulls in the 4th quarter, you can see the highlights below.

Although Monk has shown real signs of life in the past two weeks to the point I wouldn’t just give him away for nothing, if you can term him into another asset that could be the best move from a roster construction point of view. I still struggle to see a world where a four guard rotation of Graham, Monk, Rozier & Ball can succeed defensively in the playoffs. Due to recent injuries to Rozier & Graham we haven’t had to deal with the minutes crunch either, once all four are healthy Monk’s minutes will likely drop again to a maximum of 12-16 minutes per night.


What grade would you give the trade discussed above? Monk + 21 BKN 2nd Round Pick

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