The Los Angeles Lakers could use an infusion of size with Anthony Davis sidelined, and according to the New York Post‘s Marc Berman, they’re interested in a high-risk, high-reward target: Orlando Magic big man Mo Bamba. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bamba has played only 122 games in the league due to injuries and COVID-19, but has a rare combination of skills that made him such a high draft pick in the first place.
While it has never materialized into steady numbers, Bamba was projected as a solid shooter coming out of the University of Texas. That is a rarity for a player with his physical tools. Bamba is an athletic 7-footer with a staggering 7-10 wingspan, even longer than Rudy Gobert’s. If he can stay healthy, that gives him All-Defense-caliber potential as a rim protector. Pairing that kind of length with Davis would make scoring near the basket almost impossible for Lakers opponents.
Bamba is playing only 8.7 minutes per game on a depleted Magic team, so he is likely available for a reasonable price. The real holdup for the Lakers would be his salary. Bamba isn’t exactly overpriced at $5.9 million. The issue would be matching salary.
To make a trade legal for a player in Bamba’s salary range, most teams would only have to send out around $3.4 million. Non-taxpaying teams can absorb 175 percent of the salary they send out in a trade, provided the total salary is less than $6,533,333, which Bamba’s is. However, taxpaying teams operate under stricter trade rules. They can only absorb 125 percent of their outgoing salary, or roughly $4.8 million. The Lakers are deep into the tax, and that isn’t even their greatest concern. They are also hard-capped at the apron, meaning they cannot exceed $138,928,000 in salary for any reason. They have roughly $900,000 beneath that line at present, but have only 14 players on their roster, meaning they could not make an unbalanced trade unless they left enough space to get back up to 14 players afterward.
Essentially, this means that the Lakers would need to send out around $5 million to make a trade feasible. That’s a problem because the Lakers have only five players who make that much. Davis and LeBron James are untouchable. Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are too valuable to be dealt for a project. All of their other salaries are smaller, but it’s not as though they aren’t important. The Lakers are trying to balance minutes among 11 different rotation players, all of whom are more productive at this juncture than Bamba. Giving up multiple rotation pieces for a single lottery ticket is farfetched for a defending champion.
But Rob Pelinka has made bold moves before, and for all we know, has a plan to make such an acquisition feasible. For now, this seems unlikely, but the Lakers could sorely use an infusion of size, and Bamba has plenty of it.