Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. Getting Comfortable on Floor Together

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - The sequel, as well as at the tail end of the threequel, of Disney’s The Mighty Ducks film series featured a tandem nicknamed “The Bash Brothers.” Fulton Reed and Dean Portman, their respective character names, were the enforcers of their hockey team.

Perhaps, the duo of Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. will be just that for the Orlando Magic. Starting together in Orlando’s frontcourt during Sunday’s preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs, they flexed their collective muscle – on both ends of the floor.

This was an encouraging sight as head coach Jamahl Mosley continues to tinker with lineups and explore different combinations. Bamba posted 16 points, 10 coming in the fourth quarter when the Magic rallied from double digits down, to go along with 10 rebounds and five blocks, while Carter tallied 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

When they were both in high school, the two talked about the possibility of teaming up in college. That obviously didn’t happen, as Bamba decided to enroll at the University of Texas and Carter went to play for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University.

But now, just a few years into their NBA careers, they are both part of Orlando’s rebuilding project.

“I think we played pretty well together,” Bamba said after Sunday’s contest. “I think there’s a couple things defensively that we should clean up. I will get with him tomorrow and look over the film. But I think we played really well together. I knew that we could always play well together. I could say it now – the plan in high school we were thinking about playing together in college. One thing about Wendell is he’s a hooper. He (goes) out there – (playing the) four or five – and just (goes) out there and play(s) and make(s) defenses have to adjust to it.”

What could help them thrive as a unit – assuming we see them on the court at the same time more frequently – is the fact that they can both play inside and out. Bamba is further along with his outside shooting, but Carter appears to be an improved jump shooter from long distance. The better roller of the two so far in their careers has been Carter, but Bamba is showing more poise when he dashes down the lane. Watch here as Bamba sets the ball screen for Jalen Suggs and then catches the alley-oop lob for the dunk.

It’s on the defensive end where they should excel the most, though. Even in limited minutes, Bamba already has swatted away 10 shots this preseason, second most in the NBA behind Bol Bol’s 11. Protecting the basket has always been Bamba’s forte, and now with him likely to get more minutes than ever, it wouldn’t be shocking if he ranked near the top in the NBA in blocks this season.

When he and Carter both collapse in the paint, it’s tough for opponents to get clean shots off, highlighted during this play with Doug McDermott cutting to the basket.

Underrated about Carter’s game is his passing. He had three dimes against the Spurs, one of which was to Bamba, who finished that play with a layup. As shown here, Carter was able to use a quick first step on a slower defender (Drew Eubanks) and then react when Dejounte Murray slid up in the paint allowing Bamba to roam freely along the baseline.

Interesting about the Magic is that they could play small or big. In fact, Sunday’s starting lineup featured a pair of bigs and three guards, essentially. Mixing and matching gives Mosley more options, and it’s very possible we will see different lineups used depending on matchups.

Let’s remember too that the Magic are not currently at full strength. Eventually, they will have more versatility in their bag. That versatility does a lot of things – one of which is create more favorable defensive matchups. And that can lead to easier scoring chances on the other end, which is exactly what transpired during Sunday’s game. Orlando accumulated 19 fast break points, many of which were generated off steals and deflections.

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