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Lakers Rumors: Mo Bamba Interests LA in NBA Free Agency; Raptors Also Linked

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 30, 2022

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

The Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors are reportedly expected to pursue Mo Bamba in free agency after he didn't receive a qualifying offer from the Orlando Magic.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported Thursday the Magic haven't ruled out bringing the 24-year-old center back, but they've "set a price for Bamba and are unwilling to go above it," which could allow the Lakers or Raptors to make a free-agent splash.

After three years as a reserve, Bamba stepped into the Orlando starting lineup and produced his best statistical season in 2021-22. He averaged 10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 1.5 threes and 1.2 assists while shooting 48 percent from the field, including 38.1 percent from beyond the arc, in 71 appearances.

Those improved numbers combined with his 7'0'', 231-pound frame and 7'10'' wingspan make him one of the most high-upside free agents available this summer despite his inconsistency across four NBA seasons.

In April, Bamba expressed interest in staying with the Magic despite the contract uncertainty.

"I want to be here," he told reporters. "I just want to make that clear. I'll let that stuff handle itself and continue to work."

Now he'll at least get an opportunity to hear pitches from other organizations before deciding whether to return to Orlando.

The Lakers are looking for an infusion of talent around the core tandem of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Moving Russell Westbrook's contract is unlikely, which means the front office will probably have to rely on a series of smaller moves rather than a blockbuster.

Signing Bamba would allow Davis to play the 4, his preferred position, and give the Lakers more potential on the interior after using a variety of veteran options, including Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan, at the 5 last season.

Meanwhile, the Raptors are also seeking an upgrade at center to fill out the frontcourt alongside Pascal Siakam. The combination of Bamba and Siakam (7'3'' wingspan) could create some real issues for opponents trying to attack the rim.

It's quite possible other teams emerge as potential suitors in the coming days, as Bamba's inclusion in the free-agent class came a bit late after the qualifying offer wasn't tendered.

His occasional flashes of All-Star potential are enough to warrant a multiyear contract with the hope he can take his game to that next level with a change of scenery.

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