The Toronto Raptors are set to acquire big man Serge Ibaka in a trade with the Orlando Magic, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. The Raptors, who targeted Ibaka before last year’s draft, will send back Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick, according to Wojnarowski.
That 2017 first-round pick will be whichever is lowest between the Raptors and the Clippers, according to Wojnarowski. Toronto has L.A.’s 2017 first-round pick via a trade last summer with the Bucks that also netted them the rights to Norman Powell.
The Magic acquired Ibaka in a draft-day deal with the Thunder last year in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the rights to Domantas Sabonis, the 11th pick in the draft. But while Ibaka has put up bigger offensive numbers this year, his defense has not been as good and the Magic are nowhere near the playoff picture. With Ibaka set to be a free agent after the year, the Magic decided to receive something in return rather than let him go for nothing.
Ironically, the Raptors also tried to trade for Ibaka around the draft last year, but the Thunder chose Orlando’s offer instead. Oklahoma City reportedly asked for Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, and the No. 9 pick (which was used on Jakob Poeltl), according to SportsNet’s Michael Grange. Now, Toronto gets Ibaka at a discounted price.
Why the Raptors made this trade
Because they need to do something to keep pace in the East, and Ibaka fills their biggest hole at power forward. Toronto has played well whenever Patrick Patterson is on the court, but has been awful when he hasn’t been. Ibaka can now replace Patterson in the starting lineup and push Patterson into the reserve role in which he’s thrived.
Ibaka can also play on the second unit as a backup center, which fixes another one of Toronto’s big holes. Toronto has struggled all year to replace the defensive presence that Bismack Biyombo offered last year. Ibaka can start games at power forward, come out early for Patterson and then return with Patterson on the second unit and replace Jonas Valanciunas.
Ibaka has the exact type of offensive game that will complement Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Though Ibaka took on a larger offensive role with Orlando, he can now fade into the background and spot up off Lowry and DeRozan’s penetration. Ibaka is shooting a career-high 39 percent from three-point range on nearly four attempts per game.
The cost was also not prohibitive. Ross is having a nice season, but he’s become expendable with the emergence of Powell. The first-round pick will be in the 20s and Toronto already has enough young players not getting a chance to play.
Ibaka is a free agent after the year, but the plan is to re-sign him, according to Wojnarowski.
Sources: Toronto is trading for Ibaka with intention of trying to re-sign him in free agency this summer. Masai Ujiri has long coveted him.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 14, 2017
With Lowry and Patterson also up for new deals, the Raptors are about to have a very high payroll. But their window to compete is closing, so now was the time to make a move.
Why the Magic made this trade
Ibaka is simply a sunk cost for the Magic.
Orlando paid a heavy price to acquire him in the hopes of competing for a playoff spot this year. Instead, they have failed to mesh and sit 5.5 games out of the No. 8 seed in the East. With four losses in their last five games — three of which were by more than 20 points — things were getting worse before they were getting better.
So the Magic at least tried to recoup some value from an investment that failed to work out. Ross is a quality shooter that should provide more spacing on a team that desperately needs it, while the first-round pick could yield a talent upgrade. Orlando also frees up space for Aaron Gordon to play power forward, his natural position.
Still, the larger sequence of events for the Magic is discouraging. In essence, Orlando swapped Oladipo and the No. 11 pick in the 2016 draft for Terrence Ross and a pick in the 20s in 2017. That’s after dealing away Tobias Harris last trade deadline for two players no longer on the team.