The Orlando Magic didn’t tender a qualifying offer to Mo Bamba by Wednesday, which will make him an unrestricted free agent when free agency opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Orlando Sentinel.
The Magic not extending the qualifying offer doesn’t mean Bamba won’t return. They still have an interest in bringing him back and are expected to work on negotiating a new deal when free agency opens.
Bamba, the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft, finished the final season of his 4-year, $24.1 million rookie scale contract in 2021-22.
He averaged career-highs across the board, including minutes (25.7), points (10.6), rebounds (8.1), blocks (1.7) and assists (1.2) in 71 games (69 starts).
The Magic had until the close of business Wednesday to tender a 1-year, $10.1 million qualifying offer to Bamba to make him a restricted free agent.
The move didn’t come as a surprise. Early Wednesday, it was clear that the Magic were “unlikely” to make the qualifier.
Orlando would’ve run risked diminishing the value of Bamba’s contract on the trade market if it extended the qualifying offer and he opted into it. Players who return to a team on the qualifying offer are no longer extension eligible and become unrestricted free agents the following season. They also have a no-trade clause for that season they’re on the qualifying offer, meaning the team would need the player’s consent for a trade.
If the Magic and Bamba agreed to a new deal, it’d allow Orlando to retain his bird rights and have more contract flexibility going forward.
Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet with any team, but the player’s original team can retain him by matching the terms of that offer. As an unrestricted free agent, Bamba can sign with any team.
There’s also the possibility the Magic sign and trade Bamba to another team interested in him.
The Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves are expected to be interested in Bamba, a source told the Sentinel.
Teams may negotiate deals with free agents starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
The free agency moratorium is a negotiation period from Friday through July 6 in which teams can come to terms on contracts and other deals while the new salary cap numbers are adjusted after an audit of league finance. Those deals can become official at 12:01 p.m. on July 6.
The Magic had three other players who were eligible for 1-year qualifying offers — Bol Bol ($2.7 million) and two-way players Ignas Brazdeikis ($50,000) and Admiral Schofield ($50,000).
The Magic didn’t publicly comment on any of these players, nor Bamba.