Mo Bamba: Stepping Up in Joel Embiid's Absence for the Sixers

Philadelphia 76ers v Portland Trail Blazers
Philadelphia 76ers v Portland Trail Blazers / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

With the recent news of Joel Embiid’s extended absence due to a meniscus injury, the Philadelphia 76ers will be forced to rely on one of their free-agent acquisitions in an extended role. Mo Bamba, barring a trade, is expected to back up Paul Reed at the center position while Embiid recovers and prepares for a potential late-season return. Bamba is no stranger to big minutes in the NBA, having started 82 games throughout six seasons, including 69 starts in 2021 with the Orlando Magic.

So far in his first year in Philadelphia, Bamba has shown flashes of good play in limited action.

He is averaging 4.3 points to go along with 3.4 rebounds in just 9.9 minutes per game. If you take Bamba’s numbers and equate it to an average of 36 minutes per game he would be averaging 15.5 points along with 13.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks, the latter of which has been the strength of his game since he entered the league in 2018. His shot-blocking ability will be crucial for the Sixers if they want to replace Joel Embiid’s production on the defensive end. 

In addition to his shot-blocking ability, Bamba has shown an impressive ability to knock down shots from the three-point line.

During his career, Bamba has shot 36% from long range, which matches Embiid’s percentage from the field this season. While the Sixers would prefer to have Bamba use his tall frame to grab rebounds, having the ability to knock down shots from long range is a bonus that the Sixers can use to their advantage.

Replacing Joel Embiid’s production on both ends of the court will be impossible. There is a reason that he has been in the MVP conversation for the last four years (including a win in 2023). He can change the course of a game even when he is not 100% healthy, which has been an unfortunate recurring theme during his career. While neither are flashy centers, Paul Reed and Mo Bamba will be asked to do the heavy lifting down low and keep the Sixers in contention during the coming weeks and possible months.

There is no guarantee, however, that Bamba is penciled in as the backup to Paul Reed. 

There is no guarantee, however, that Bamba is penciled in as the backup to PauHe will have to earn his minutes, as Nick Nurse could choose to use small ball lineups that include the likes of KJ Martin, Danuel House, Nic Batum, and Robert Covington. Add in the potential of a trade or buyout signing and there is a possibility that Bamba does not see an increased workload despite the injury to Embiid.

Expecting Mo Bamba to return to his 2018 form when he was drafted fifth overall, is a tall order.

However, if he can mirror his successful 2021 season with averages of 10.6 points and 1.7 blocks per game, this could prove pivotal for the Sixers as they seek to salvage their season. Bamba has shown glimpses of very solid play in 2024 and there is no better time for him to break out than right now if he is given the opportunity.