Serge Ibaka Trade Rumors: 5 Teams That Should Trade For Magic PF
Serge Ibaka trade rumors are picking up steam as the Orlando Magic fall further away from the playoff picture, but which teams should trade for him?
Okay, so maybe “miles away” isn’t entirely accurate since the bottom of the Eastern Conference is down this year, leaving Orlando only 4.5 games out of a playoff spot.
But the Magic are a dreadful 19-32, giving them the second-worst record in the East, the second-worst point differential in the East and, more importantly, virtually zero shot at re-signing Ibaka when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the Magic have already begun shopping Ibaka to try and get some value out of him before losing him for nothing in free agency. This makes sense, especially for a franchise that gave up Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and 2017 draft selection Domantas Sabonis to go all in on Ibaka and the accompanying playoff delusions.
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Ibaka is still only 27, and though he’s only averaging 15.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, he’s an effective rim protector, can help a team on the boards, and will spread the floor as a stretch-4, shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and 38.1 percent from three-point range.
It’s hard to say what the Magic will do from here, especially since we’ve already seen Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic pop up in trade rumors. Are the Magic ready to change course and try to rebuild through the draft again? Or is general manager Rob Hennigan still fighting for his job and desperate to return to the postseason?
Either way, the main questions for an Ibaka trade revolve around which teams would A) Desire Ibaka’s skill set, B) Have enough to entice the Magic into a deal that either helps them rebuild or remain competitive for another doomed playoff push and C) Be confident in their ability to re-sign him and make sure he’s not just a two-month rental?
Here’s a look at five teams (and some honorable mentions) that could swing a deal for Serge Ibaka, what those trades might look like for both sides, and what might get in the way of each one.
I hate to be that guy, but the Detroit Pistons were 11-10 before Reggie Jackson came back. Since his return, they’ve gone 11-17. With all those scorers on the wing, maybe what the Pistons need is an addition by subtraction move that puts a pass-first point guard like Ish Smith back in control?
The Pistons have dropped out of the playoff field in the East, putting pressure on Stan Van Gundy to right the ship after they were picked as a dark horse contender for a top-four seed. Ibaka would provide some of the three-point shooting this team sorely lacks, even if there’d be some positional overlap with Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer and Tobias Harris.
The Magic, meanwhile, would get the scoring punch they need at a position of need. The only problem is SVG might prefer to be patient rather than make a hasty move like this, especially since the Pistons would then need to worry about re-signing Ibaka in free agency this summer.
New Orleans Pelicans:
PG – Tim Frazier
The New Orleans Pelicans need to start putting some legitimate two-way talent around Anthony Davis if they want to make the most of his prime, and Serge Ibaka would be a great complementary piece at the 4 who could help protect the rim and spread the floor on offense.
The only problem is the Pellies are sorely lacking in assets. Would a decent, versatile wing like Solomon Hill plus point guard Tim Frazier (to add another quality point guard to the backcourt) be enough to sway the Magic? If Orlando can’t get anything else, this might be the kind of offer they have to settle for.
Portland Trail Blazers:
SF – Jake Layman
The Portland Trail Blazers are one team that could REALLY use Ibaka as the NBA’s 25th-ranked defense, but finding a deal to match salaries and supply the Magic with a player they’d actually want is not easy.
The best option might look something like Meyers Leonard and Jake Layman, but is a backup for Aaron Gordon and a rarely used rookie enough value on the Magic’s end? And would Ibaka really make that big of a difference in Rip City to warrant yet another massive contract in free agency that keeps a mediocre albeit young core intact?
5. Phoenix Suns
Do the Phoenix Suns “need” Serge Ibaka? Definitely not. But since neither Marquese Chriss nor Dragan Bender are ready to play starter’s minutes at the 4, and since the Suns might aid their youth movement by trading some veterans away at the trade deadline, a deal like this might make sense for both sides.
We also can’t ignore that the Suns want to move Brandon Knight as soon as possible, which would free up minutes for rookie Tyler Ulis and possibly another point guard in this year’s point guard-heavy draft.
For the Suns, they’d be getting a quality power forward who’s been on successful playoff teams and could help mentor the young players. He’d spread the floor for a poor three-point shooting team and bolster the defense with his shot-blocking.
Phoenix also stands little chance of competing with other suitors for the summer’s marquee free agents, so they could throw as much money at Ibaka as needed to re-sign him.
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For the Magic, they’d be getting another option for their starting point guard spot. Elfrid Payton has more upside, is younger and has been playing much better recently, but trade rumors have swirled around him for the past few months and the front office might not be sold on his progress or his long-term fit.
Knight has been awful during his time in a Suns jersey, but just a few seasons ago, he was a borderline All-Star with the Milwaukee Bucks — back when he still had the ball in his hands. If the Magic are browsing the market for a point guard, Knight is one potential option who’d be readily available.
Is he the best option? Absolutely not. But if the market for Ibaka is drier than expected, at least they’d be getting something out of him before he bolts in free agency. Meanwhile, the Suns would finally get Knight out of Phoenix while receiving a very useful stretch-4 in his prime.
However, if the Suns are committing to the youth movement, do they really need another veteran power forward obstructing Chriss’ and Bender’s path to extended minutes?
Would they really want to offer him a max contract to keep him for the long-term when they wouldn’t be competing for anything during his prime? Would Ibaka even want to re-sign to babysit the young Suns? And if the Magic don’t want Knight, doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole purpose of making a trade like this?
Ibaka would be a great return for Knight, and the Magic would be getting something out of him before he leaves, but Knight has been truly awful this season and the Suns may not want Orlando’s stretch-4 if they’re focusing on development.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
Ricky Rubio‘s name has flitted on and off the trade block for years now, and this season has been no different. If the Minnesota Timberwolves are ready to move on from Rubio and hand the reins over to rookie Kris Dunn, the Magic are one point guard-hungry team that could come calling.
That decision might seem premature, and it probably is. Dunn looks nowhere near ready to man the wheel of an NBA team, but he’s gotten better as the season has progressed and his replacing Rubio feels inevitable.
To that end, the Wolves may try to squeeze whatever value they can out of their Spaniard point guard since he’s 26 and still in his prime.
For the NBA’s 23rd-ranked defense, trading for a shot-blocking 4 who can be slotted alongside Karl-Anthony Towns or Gorgui Dieng (depending on the lineup) might help Minnesota take the next step in the West. The Wolves have underwhelmed this season, but a defensive-minded coach like Tom Thibodeau would love having a player who’s so versatile on both ends of the floor.
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Minnesota has plenty of cap space, and because of how exciting KAT, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are, not to mention the Thibs factor, they may have a good chance at re-signing Ibaka in free agency.
As for the Magic, they’d be getting a steadier option at the point guard position — albeit one whose shooting woes have plagued his entire career, much like their current point guard, Elfrid Payton. In fact, Payton is shooting a better percentage from the field this year than Rubio.
That being said, Rubio is the better facilitator and he’s a woefully underrated defender. The Magic would probably be better off riding it out and having a little more patience with Payton, but if they trade him or if they’re still desperately chasing a return to the postseason, Rubio is one avenue they could take.
However, there’s no guarantee Ibaka would re-sign in Minnesota if a contender offers him a lucrative deal, and the Wolves might prefer to roll with KAT and Dieng in the middle for the foreseeable future. Orlando also needs a point guard who can actually shoot if they want to avoid the same offensive issues they currently have with Payton.
3. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics currently rank 28th in rebounds per game, 26th in rebounding percentage and 22nd in blocks per game. Their 20th-ranked defense could use some help, and a player with Ibaka’s skill set would represent a significant upgrade on Amir Johnson at the 4.
In Boston, Ibaka could potentially elevate the Celtics to another level with his defense, shot-blocking and ability to spread the floor alongside Al Horford. That’d be a nightmarish frontcourt to deal with on both ends of the floor, and would only make the NBA’s seventh-ranked offense that much more potent.
There are plenty of avenues the Magic could pursue in a Serge Ibaka trade, but if they wise up and start another rebuilding process, they’ll be seeking one of the many future first round draft picks Boston could offer.
General manager Danny Ainge would be foolish to part with this year’s first-rounder from Brooklyn — currently slated to be the No. 1 overall pick — for a guy who’s heading for the biggest contract of his career this summer, and the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder might be too valuable as well.
Future 1st round pick
But the Celtics also have all of their future first-rounders to work with, as well as two first-rounders in 2019: a lottery-protected first from the Clippers and a top-eight protected first from the Grizzlies. One of those should suffice for Ibaka’s expiring contract, no matter which Celtics player is thrown in to balance salaries.
If Boston can pull it off, offering Tyler Zeller along with one of those picks would be the best possible move, allowing them to keep Amir Johnson and bring him off the bench behind Ibaka.
However, if the Magic are smart, they’ll push for both Johnson and the pick, since Johnson is a useful defender who could help guide Orlando’s youngsters through their ongoing rebuild without threatening Aaron Gordon’s minutes at power forward.
Future 1st round pick
If the Celtics decide Serge Ibaka is THE star they want to make a trade for, they have more assets to pry him from Orlando than anyone. But with so many blockbuster possibilities floating around, would a 27-year-old stretch-4 who’s entering free agency really be their best play?
After all, re-signing Ibaka would prevent Boston’s all-in pursuit of free agent-to-be Gordon Hayward. The Celtics might be able to land a star player by including Jae Crowder in a blockbuster deal, and then reunite Hayward with his old coach Brad Stevens in free agency — a much better path than dealing for and re-signing Ibaka.
Unless Ibaka was able to make a significant impact and push the Celtics past the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East (and spoiler alert: he probably wouldn’t), Boston would be better off looking elsewhere for their game-changing trade. Because of that medium-level interest, the Magic might get better offers elsewhere anyway.
2. Denver Nuggets
As the Denver Nuggets try to prepare for a playoff push after falling to ninth place in the standings, adding a stretch-4 with Serge Ibaka’s skill set would be a slam dunk move.
Ibaka’s defensive versatility, rim protection and three-point shooting would be a boon to Denver on both ends of the floor, even with Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler capable of playing the 4 in small-ball lineups.
Alongside an emerging unicorn like Nikola Jokic, Ibaka and that frontcourt would be tough to stop, and he’d also bolster the NBA’s 29th-ranked defense. The question is, what can the Nuggets give up in a trade that would entice the Magic without giving up too much to hurt their playoff hopes?
The first possible answer — Kenneth Faried — is probably one that fans would be okay with. If Orlando realizes Ibaka is about to walk for nothing and can’t find a better deal, then there are worse outcomes than taking a work horse like Faried, even with two years left on his contract after this season.
He’d provide the Magic with plenty of hustle minutes, he wouldn’t intrude on Gordon’s starting job at the 4 and he’d help Orlando remain competitive as the front office desperately tries to move this team back into the playoff picture.
However, if the Magic aren’t interested in Faried and prefer to find an alternative to Payton at the 1, offering Emmanuel Mudiay is another option that may work — though the Nuggets faithful would probably have some major problems with such a hasty decision.
So far in his young NBA career, Mudiay has underwhelmed. He’s been turnover-prone, the hitch in his jump shot is downright ugly and his shooting woes have inspired plenty of doubts that he will ever develop into the superstar guard he was pegged to be heading into the 2015 NBA Draft.
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With Jamal Murray immediately looking like a game-time player and showing flashes of ball-handling ability, could the Nuggets pull the trigger on turning things over to their rookie and/or veteran Jameer Nelson at the point?
Assuming the Magic are looking for a new point guard for the long-term, Mudiay is a younger option at age 20. The Nuggets would get the stretch-4 they need, they could fully unleash Murray’s potential and the Magic would get a player who still has time to grow into a solid starting point guard.
However, if Orlando buys into Mudiay’s potential, why wouldn’t Denver do the same? Murray is a great scorer so far, but whether he could make the switch and become an actual point guard is another matter entirely. Plus, if the Magic are worried about Payton’s shooting woes, they might not be sold on a guy like Mudiay, who’s shooting 37.4 percent from the floor and 31.4 percent from three-point range this year.
The Nuggets would love having a player like Ibaka to fill their biggest needs, but they would also want to keep their core intact. Outside of Faried or a hasty Mudiay trade, it’s hard to see how Denver could entice Orlando, find matching salaries and still avoid sacrificing a key piece for the playoff run.
1. Toronto Raptors
The Celtics need help at the 4, but possess so many trade assets to offer that they could choose to fry bigger fish. The Toronto Raptors also need help at the 4, but can’t compete with Boston in a bidding war for star talent without completely gutting their roster.
To that end, setting their sights on a useful but less sexy addition makes the most sense for Toronto. They’d get the upgrade they need at power forward with Ibaka, but they’d also be able to do so without sacrificing too much in their pursuit of an Eastern Conference Finals rematch with Cleveland.
Assuming the Raptors would want to roll with a starting five of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas (plus Norman Powell off the bench, because he’s pretty much indispensable at this point), that limits their options of what they could offer in a potential deal.
2017 1st round pick (lottery-protected via Clippers)
Parting with an explosive athlete and sixth man like Terrence Ross would be a blow, but if the Raptors could get away with offering Ross and their 2017 lottery-protected first round pick that’s incoming from the Clippers, shouldn’t they pull the trigger?
Losing Ross’ 10.4 points per game on 36.4 percent shooting from deep wouldn’t be a huge blow to the bench, but adding Ibaka would help improve the NBA’s 18th-ranked defense and cover for some of Valanciunas’ flaws on that end.
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He’d spread the floor with a three-point shot, he wouldn’t take too many touches away from Lowry and DeRozan and he could potentially elevate the Raptors to even ground with the Cavaliers.
That being said, the Magic may seek a larger return from a team more desperate for Ibaka’s services, and they may not even want to rebuild as Hennigan continues to fight for his job by pushing for the playoffs. If that’s the case, that first-rounder would lose its value, even if Ross could help provide some of the extra scoring Orlando is looking for.
There’s also the issue of the Raptors re-signing Ibaka in free agency this summer. Paul Millsap would probably be a better fit at the 4 despite being four years older than Ibaka, but if people balked at the idea of re-signing him after this summer, the same could be said for Ibaka — especially with Lowry capable of opting out and joining free agency as well.
The Raptors make the most sense as a potential destination for Serge Ibaka’s skill set, but whether they could work out a deal with Orlando and commit to re-signing him for the long haul is another matter entirely — especially if he doesn’t prove to be the missing piece that can get “We The North” over that LeBron James-sized hump in the playoffs.