Potential landing spots for Serge Ibaka
The Orlando Magic are reportedly looking to move Serge Ibaka. Which teams could use the talented forward?
All signs point to the Orlando Magic making a move or two at the February 23 trade deadline. The postseason is increasingly out of reach, and it may be time to pack it in and develop young players. It is also the time to move any players who are not going to be a part of the team’s future.
Serge Ibaka has not even played a full season with Orlando and he already could be on his way out. Sean Deveney of Sporting News reported earlier this week the Magic could increase their urgency to trade Serge Ibaka.
Ibaka is going to be a free agent come July and is likely going to want to play for a contender. This is probably going to lead the Magic to trade him at the trade deadline and at least get something in return for him rather than letting him walk in free agency for nothing.
Although he is a talented NBA player who could help almost any team in the league, trading Ibaka is not going to be an easy task. With his impending free agency, teams are going to want to make sure Ibaka commits to stay, or make sure their team is close enough to contending for a championship that they would not mind using him as a one-year rental. At the very least those teams might feel in a better position to keep Ibaka in free agency.
Plenty of teams have already expressed interest in Ibaka according to Keith Smith of RealGM.
Teams known to have interest in Ibaka are Toronto, Washington, Boston, Indiana, Houston, Portland, and San Antonio.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) January 30, 2017
There is clearly a market for Ibaka and plenty of teams could use his skills to push for either a spot in the playoffs, or a deep run at a title.
The question is what direction will the Magic decide to go in trading Ibaka.
The Toronto Raptors are a true contender in the Eastern Conference. With the Cleveland Cavaliers struggling, adding Ibaka might be the move that allows them to capture the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
With a strong backcourt, the Raptors are going to be able to challenge almost any team in the NBA. Still, without a consistent third scoring option, they could find themselves as the runner-up in the East yet again.
Scoring just less than 15 points per game, Ibaka is able to score from the outside and give Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan some room to operate. Ibaka is shooting well from the 3-point line this season at 38 percent too.
The biggest impact Ibaka should be able to make for the Raptors is on the defensive end. The team has struggled to find someone who can protect the paint. Valnciunas is not a great defender and having Ibaka alongside him can ease the pressure on him.
When it comes to looking at a potential deal, the Magic are probably going to get a few expiring contracts in return and possibly Terrence Ross. Hopefully, the Raptors give up a pick or two so the Magic have something to help build towards the future.
Clearly, Toronto has both the interest and the need for Ibaka. And the young players the Magic could desire to reset their rebuild and build back up toward the future.
Like the Toronto Raptors, the Boston Celtics are right at the top of the Eastern Conference. Ibaka could put the Celtics over the top.
Isaiah Thomas is playing at an MVP level and his supporting cast has been good enough to put the Celtics in second in the conference.
Even with an impressive record, the Celtics should still be looking for help in the front court. They do not have an interior defensive presence. Ibaka can provide that. Ibaka is versatile enough to be paired with the players currently on Boston’s roster too.
It would not net the same immediate return, but the Magic could mine for some young assets from the Celtics and set the table for a better future in such a deal.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers need some help.
After a tremendous 2016 campaign, they are currently well worse than .500 and sit in the eighth seed in the West. Still, with a star in Damian Lillard, the odds of the Blazers completely blowing their roster up are slim. They just need a tweak to get over that hump.
This is where the addition of Ibaka could push the Blazers toward the success they had last season. With the duo of Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the perimeter, Ibaka can easily slide in and become their rim protector.
Portland’s biggest issue has been the team’s defense. If the Trail Blazers are willing to sacrifice perimeter defense to keep McCollum and Lillard together, they should probably invest in interior defense. Ibaka can provide that as well as a spark on the offensive end.
If Portland and Orlando are willing, they should be able to pull this trade off. Portland has the young assets the Magic need and have players like Allen Crabbe that could have a long-term future with Orlando.
At the beginning of the season, the Washington Wizards looked like a lottery-bound team. Now, they sit in fourth place and are a sure-fire playoff team. In a similar situation as both the Raptors and Celtics, the Wizards could add Ibaka to make them a true threat to the Cavaliers.
The Wizards are set in the back court. John Wall and Bradley Beal are tremendous players. On the wing, they are also in a good place with Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre. The issues arise with their front court. Marcin Gortat and the other Washington bigs are solid players, but Ibaka would be an immediate boost to that unit.
There is also the fact Scott Brooks, who played a huge role in developing Ibaka into the player he is today, is the head coach. Brooks previously coached Ibaka when he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This could entice Ibaka into signing a long-term deal this summer and making a trade with Washington easier. Of course, moving a player to a divsion rival is rare. But if the Magic decide to rebuild, it may not affect them.
Trying to figure out the specifics of a trade with the Wizards is tough. The Magic could ask for Oubre or some picks down the road. Not the most tantalizing offer.