Bamba's Momentum

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Matt Stroup
·4 min read
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Mo Bamba came into the NBA as a heralded prospect — the No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft — who flashed very clear fantasy upside during his one season at Texas, when he averaged 12.9 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 0.8 spg, 3.7 bpg and 0.5 3s.

The problem, of course, was that he had a bona fide star entrenched in front of him in Nikola Vucevic, which honestly makes the Bamba pick something of a head-scratcher in the first place, since the Magic invested that draft capital in the big man but never game him an extended opportunity.

Until, perhaps, right now.

In seven games since Vucevic got a new driver’s license at the trade deadline, Bamba is averaging 11.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.0 bpg and 1.3 3s in just 17 minutes a game. More notably, he is coming off a game on Wednesday where he put up 19 points, eight boards, a steal, two blocks and three treys in a season-high 25 minutes against the Wizards (highlights here if you want to check out how it happened).

Also important: As reported by Shams Charania, the Magic released Khem Birch on Thursday. Birch missed a couple games due to illness after the trade deadline, but he also had games where he got 37, 26, 19 and 16 minutes. With Birch gone, it’s now just Wendell Carter Jr. and Bamba at center in Orlando.

And if you’re wondering whether Bamba is up to that challenge, I direct you to his per-36-minute numbers, which have quietly been pretty beastly since the minute he arrived in the NBA. Here they are (per basketball-reference.com):

2018-19: 13.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 0.6 spg, 3.0 bpg, 1.0 3s

2019-20: 13.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 0.9 spg, 3.5 bpg, 1.5 3s

2020-21: 18.4 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 0.6 spg, 2.8 bpg, 1.9 3s

We’re always looking for players with league-winning upside. Here’s one who already has it, who seems headed for a consistent spike in playing time — to something in the 24+ minute range (hopefully) — and who as of Friday morning is only rostered in 10 percent of Yahoo leagues.

It’s time to add Mo Bamba now and see where this goes.

Here are a few other fantasy-related developments that have caught my attention recently:

The Raptors have found another gem at point guard. As someone who rosters Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry in a lot of leagues, I’ve been pretty devastated to see both of them get injured right before the fantasy playoffs arrive. Enter Malachi Flynn. Toronto’s latest find in the NBA Draft (they got him 29th overall last year), Flynn has gotten 30+ minutes in four consecutive games for Toronto, averaging 13.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.0 bpg and 2.0 3s. It may only take one of Lowry or VanVleet returning to wreck his momentum, but as long as both are out, Flynn (34 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues) looks excellent — and appears to be a potential long-term answer in the backcourt for Toronto.

The Isaiah Stewart explosion is imminent. At least it feels that way. Let’s review: Earlier this week, Stewart got a chance to start with Mason Plumlee resting, and had a steal and four blocks in the first quarter. Never mind that he ended with exactly a steal and four blocks in the game. The point is, he’s got it.

Stewart got another start on Thursday night with Mason Plumlee in the concussion protocol, and the 19-year-old big man finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in a season-high 33 minutes. Stewart (14 percent rostered) will still have some quiet games (he had four points, seven rebounds and nothing else in a 44-point loss last Saturday), but I’d be adding him anywhere I have Plumlee — and anywhere, period. There’s a lot of ceiling here if the rookie gets his chance to take over.

Is it time to make room for Kenrich Williams? We talk a lot about Aleksej Pokusevski and Theo Maledon here (and in particular on the podcast), so today we spin the Thunder wheel and land on Williams (7 percent rostered), who has exactly nine dimes in each of his last two games for OKC, and is now riding a five-game stretch that has seen him average 10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.4 spg and 1.2 3s in 27 minutes a game. At the moment, it’s just a streaming situation, but it’s one of those cases where the stream could very quickly become a river.

For more on some emerging names to consider, including Bamba, Jalen McDaniels and RJ Hampton, check out the latest episode of the podcast right here (and below):