LAS VEGAS — The last time the Orlando Magic were a going concern in the NBA, they were built around the most dominant big man in a decade. But since the end of the Dwight Howard era, the league has moved away from traditional center play.
Now, as the Magic attempt to become relevant again for the first time since trading Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012, they’re bucking league-wide trends, going big when everyone else is going small.
The new Magic front-office brain trust of John Hammond and Jeff Weltman drafted Texas center Mohamed Bamba, he of the 7’9 wingspan, with the No. 6 overall pick in June’s draft. They’re pairing Bamba with last year’s No. 6 pick, Jonathan Isaac, along with the newly re-signed Aaron Gordon. It’s a three-big rotation that can switch positions depending on matchups — think of it as a modern version of the late-2000s Lakers frontcourts built around Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom.
“The potential between me and Jon is unreal,” Bamba said after the Magic’s Summer League game against the Memphis Grizzlies. “Even in Summer League, we’re starting to bridge that potential into production with the small things we do. We got three 24-second shot-clock violations. That was all due to length, and Jon coming over weakside and blocking shots. Our presence is everything.”
Injuries limited Isaac to just 27 games in his rookie season, but the Magic are still high on his long-term upside. A freak athlete at power forward, he’s mobile enough to defend wings while Bamba protects the paint.