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July 06, 2023

Sixers to sign big man Mo Bamba on one-year deal

The Sixers have added a backup big man.

Sixers NBA
Joel-Embiid-Mo-Bamba-Sixers Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

New teammates Mo Bamba and Joel Embiid.

The Sixers are signing Mo Bamba to a one-year deal for the minimum, according to a source familiar with the situation. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news on the Bamba signing.

Bamba, a seven-footer who played at the Westtown School in Chester County during his junior and senior years in high school, is a towering big man originally drafted by the Orlando Magic. Prior to this season's trade deadline, he was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he appeared in just nine regular season games and only 10 playoff minutes while dealing with ankle issues.

Across his five seasons in the league, Bamba has represented intrigue more than he has on-court production, though you can understand the intrigue just looking at his physical tools. Standing seven feet tall with a wingspan of seven feet and 10 inches, Bamba has unique frame even by NBA standards. He was one of a collection of giant human beings in the Magic's interior, though he has found it difficult to translate his gigantic wingspan into consistent production beyond shot-blocking numbers. That ability to protect the rim is nice, certainly, though Bamba's issues as soon as you move him away from the basket have proven far more important since he jumped to the league in 2018.

There are some things to like, however, if Bamba is ever able to move through space quicker and corral opposing ballhandlers. While his shooting touch evaded him with the Lakers in limited minutes, Bamba has shown the makings of an improved outside touch over the past couple of seasons. He made 38.1 percent of his attempts in 2021-22, and did so while getting up four threes per game across 71 games played. That's a solid sample size to work from, and Bamba was shooting even better for Orlando — 39.8 percent on 2.7 attempts per game — before the midseason move to L.A.

The optimist's case for Bamba is that if his shooting normalizes to that pre-Lakers sample, he represents something slightly different off of the bench compared to Paul Reed or last season's rotation big, Montrezl Harrell. While I would hesitate to call Bamba a "stretch five," the hope would be that he can earn that moniker and still offer resistance at the rim against drivers and slashers.

Speaking of Reed, Bamba's addition to the roster will inspire some questions about whether the Sixers are bringing Reed back next season, and the early indication is that this won't impact their decision on retaining Reed, a restricted free agent this summer. At this stage of their respective careers, I would say Reed is a better bet to be an impactful rotation player. Still, Bamba represents a different option than what they've had in the third big spot in recent seasons, a younger option with theoretical upside rather than a vet with obvious wear-and-tear issues.

And while the Sixers have not been very active in free agency to date, their profile of signing so far appears to be looking for players with bounce-back opportunities on the cheap, a departure from last season's deal with P.J. Tucker that was inked following a career-best year on multiple fronts. While no one is going to claim the Sixers are major offseason winners, they're doing some interesting bargain shopping as we all wait for the James Harden domino to fall.

This story is developing...

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