The Orlando Magic aren’t expected to tender a qualifying offer to Mo Bamba by the end of Wednesday, which will make him an unrestricted free agent when free agency opens Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Orlando Sentinel.
Bamba, the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft, finished the final season of his 4-year rookie scale contract in 2021-22.
He averaged career-highs across the board, including minutes (25.7 minutes), points (10.6), rebounds (8.1), blocks (1.7) and assists (1.2) in 71 games (69 starts).
The Magic have until Wednesday to tender a 1-year, $10.1 million qualifying offer to Bamba to make him a restricted free agent — but that isn’t expected to happen, according to a person with knowledge of the situation to the Sentinel.
The person told the Sentinel it was “unlikely” for the Magic to extend the qualifying offer as of Wednesday afternoon.
The Magic not extending the qualifying offer doesn’t mean he won’t return. Orlando still has an interest in bringing Bamba back and is expected to work on negotiating a new deal when free agency opens.
A risk the Magic could run by extending the qualifying offer is Bamba opts into it, diminishing the value of his contract on the trade market. Players who return to a team on the qualifying offer are no longer extension eligible and will become an unrestricted free agent the following season. 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.
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 12:01 p.m. on July 6.
This story will be updated.