clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is Mo Bamba the answer at backup center for the Sixers?

The 2018 lottery pick is still searching for consistency as he enters his sixth season.

Orlando Magic v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

We already looked at the two-way guys and players the team has signed to Exhibit 10 contracts, Filip Petrusev, Furkan Korkmaz, Jaden Springer and Danny Green looking forward to how they could impact the team in the 2023-24 season.

Mohamed Bamba

Age: 25

Contract status: One-year, $2.3 million deal

After 4.5 years in Orlando and a brief springtime pitstop with the Los Angeles Lakers, Mohamed Bamba arrives in his hometown of Philadelphia aiming to establish a clear NBA niche. Bamba was selected sixth overall in the 2018 Draft, but has endured various injuries and inconsistent development thus far preventing him from being the player many thought he could become 5.5 years ago.

With the Sixers, he’ll grapple against Paul Reed for minutes spelling superstar Joel Embiid. Last season, Reed emerged as the reserve center under former head coach Doc Rivers, who has since been replaced by Nick Nurse. Bamba’s arrival marks the first legitimate stretch 5 (save for small-ball options) during Joel Embiid’s tenure who could earn real playing time. Over the past two years, he’s drilled 38.3 percent (155 of 405) of his triples and is a career 35.9 percent shooter beyond the arc.

The issue, however, is he’s yet to provide many other reliable contributions through five seasons, which have hindered his ability to unearth a steady role. He’s a middling finisher — ranking in the 46th percentile or lower around the rim three times in five years, per Cleaning the Glass — whose poor core strength and versatility hinder his interior pursuits. Defensively, his physical tools, a 7-foot frame and 7-foot-10 wingspan, are neutralized by slow change of direction/vertical explosion and tendency to leave the ground on too many fakes. Only once in five seasons has a team’s defense performed better when he’s on the floor.

Given the Sixers’ lack of wing depth and Nurse’s seeming affinity for Reed, I could see Reed and Bamba sharing the floor to spotlight their contrasting skill-sets. Nurse has spoken glowingly about Reed throughout the offseason and the fourth-year big fits the style of forward his head coach gravitated toward in Toronto as a rangy, athletic, defensive playmaker.

With James Harden unlikely to take the floor for Philadelphia this year and Embiid frequenting the same position as Bamba, much of the onus will rest on Tyrese Maxey to maximize Bamba’s floor-spacing qualities and feed him easy chances beyond the arc. I expect Double Drag with Bamba popping, Reed rolling and Maxey orchestrating to be a popular action this year whenever those three occupy the court together. The growth or lack thereof from Maxey as a passer in the coming months will be both integral to Bamba’s success offensively and the team’s collective prosperity amid non-Embiid minutes.

Of course, Maxey’s individual progress should not and will not determine the entirety of Bamba’s 2023-24 story. There is certainly a world where his prime brings about newfound discipline and technique as a drop defender to render him an intriguing 3-and-D bench big for the Sixers. But soon, that has to actually arise and no longer be a rosy hypothetical. The shooting is a major boost, but his sprawling size has rarely been functional enough to blend the appeal of a defensive anchor and offensive spacer.

Entering October’s training camp, Reed should likely have the upperhand over Bamba behind Embiid, though they might not even be competing for the same minutes. And if that’s the case, the former Texas Longhorn is a safe bet to offer credible shooting at the 5. Everything beyond that is much murkier.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Liberty Ballers Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Philadelphia 76ers news from Liberty Ballers