Analysis: Why did Magic deal Mo Bamba to Lakers ahead of trade deadline?

The Orlando Magic played a part in the NBA’s record-setting Thursday trade deadline, making a deal an hour before the buzzer.

Terrence Ross (31) remains with the Magic despite receiving trade interest while Mo Bamba (11) was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers.

© Charles King/Orlando Sentinel/TNS
Terrence Ross (31) remains with the Magic despite receiving trade interest while Mo Bamba (11) was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers.

They traded 7-foot big man Mo Bamba to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a four-team trade ahead of their 115-104 home win over the Denver Nuggets.

The details of the deal, which were first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, are:

  • Magic received: a 2024 second-round pick (via the Denver Nuggets), cash considerations and Patrick Beverley.
  • Lakers received: Bamba, Davon Reed and the Clippers’ 2024 and 2025 second-round picks.
  • Nuggets received: Thomas Bryant.
  • Los Angeles Clippers received: Bones Hyland.

In a statement, the Magic confirmed what the Sentinel first reported on Beverley. They will not require him to report to the team. The sides are working on a buyout for a portion of his $13 million salary for the 2022-23 season, a league source confirmed to the Sentinel.

Why did the Magic make this deal? What does it mean for Orlando going forward? Why didn’t they make any other trade?

Before the Magic (23-33) face the Miami Heat on Saturday at Amway Center, an insight into Orlando’s deadline decisions:

Why trade Bamba?

The Magic accomplished multiple things by trading Bamba: they dealt the fifth-year big man to a team he’ll get more playing opportunities with while also maintaining their roster and cap flexibility.

Bamba, whom the Magic drafted with the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft, wasn’t a consistent part of Orlando’s crowded frontcourt rotation anymore. He was a full-time starter in 2021-22 and was the backup big behind Wendell Carter Jr. to start this season — a role Moe Wagner now plays.

Bamba was a healthy scratch in four of the Magic’s seven games before the league suspended him for four games because of his role in last week’s on-court scuffle with the Timberwolves.

He drew interest from multiple teams, league sources told the Sentinel, including the Clippers, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics — teams that traded for other bigs ahead of the deadline.

Other teams wanted to see what would happen with other veteran bigs likely to be traded (Mason Plumlee, traded from the Hornets to Clippers; Mike Muscala, Thunder to Celtics) before making a move for Bamba. His $10.3 million salary for this season — the highest salary compared to the other bigs traded before the deadline — also made finding the right trade more difficult.

The Magic were able to find a deal that’ll give Bamba an opportunity to play consistent minutes again with the Lakers, who were in need of shooting and big-man depth after trading Bryant to the Nuggets, while adding a future-second round pick to their collection of draft assets.

There wasn’t a guarantee they would’ve been able to make a deal like this during the offseason, especially if Bamba continued to have an inconsistent role with the Magic. Bamba has a $10.3 million non-guaranteed salary for next season that becomes guaranteed after June 29, so the Lakers will have him on the roster for the season’s final stretch before having to make a decision about his contract for next year.

Doing right by Bamba and his development was ultimately the focus of this deal.

Where do the Magic stand now?

Orlando still has 15 players signed to standard deals after Thursday’s trade.

If/when they agree to a contract buyout with Beverley, they’ll have one standard roster spot open. They’ll still be at least $26 million below the luxury tax threshold, regardless of what the buyout is.

The Magic could have about $55 million in cap space this offseason. This doesn’t take into account the partially or non-guaranteed 2023-24 salaries of Jonathan Isaac ($17.4 million; $7.6 million guaranteed), Markelle Fultz ($17 million; $2 million guaranteed), Gary Harris ($13 million non-guaranteed) and Bol Bol ($2 million non-guaranteed).

Maintaining roster and cap flexibility while also keeping pathways open for the young players already on the roster were priorities for the Magic, league sources told the Sentinel, adding it was unlikely Orlando was going to make a big “splashy” trade. Moves around the edges were the most likely scenario, which was what happened.

The Magic believe in what they’ve built. They’ve already surpassed last year’s win total of 22 victories with 26 games remaining.

“The group that we have in here now has continued to show growth,” coach Jamahl Mosley said Thursday. “They’ve continued to play hard for one another. They will continue to do that as we keep moving forward.”

Why no other moves?

In addition to Bamba, third-year guard R.J. Hampton and veteran guard Terrence Ross — Orlando’s longest-tenured player — were the other Magic players most likely to be involved in a deal if Orlando made another one.

That ultimately didn’t come to fruition and both are still on the roster.

Hampton and Ross both are slated to be unrestricted free agents after the season.

The Magic didn’t exercise Hampton’s rookie scale fourth-year team option for the 2023-24 season while Ross is in the final season of a 4-year, $54 million ($50 million guaranteed) contract he signed with the Magic during the 2019 offseason.

Both Hampton and Ross received trade interest, including Hampton getting interest from the Detroit Pistons and Clippers, a league source told the Sentinel.

Neither being traded suggests the Magic weren’t able to find a deal for them as they did for Bamba — one that would have landed Hampton and/or Ross on another team where they’d get more playing opportunities while also allowing the Magic to maintain their roster and cap flexibility.

Hampton, 22, and Ross, 32, haven’t had consistent roles in the rotation.

It remains to be seen if they’ll become buyout candidates.

This article first appeared on Email Khobi Price at or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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