With the NBA now well into the conference finals, the teams eliminated from the playoffs must consider their options entering the offseason. Teams like the Toronto Raptors, which equipped their team toward a playoff run, face uncertainties entering this offseason.
The top priority for the Raptors relies on point guard Kyle Lowry, who has already elected to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. However, the team also faces options regarding players like forward Serge Ibaka.
Ibaka was acquired halfway through the season via the Orlando Magic, as a bonafide rim protector alongside center Jonas Valanciunas. Head coach Dwane Casey and the front office view Ibaka in high regard, with a deal reportedly in place once the free agency period starts, via Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
League sources said that a new deal for Ibaka is basically done and that it will start in the $20 million range. It’s possible someone surfaces on July 1 with a better offer, but given Ibaka’s age and rocky season in Orlando, that seems unlikely.
The Congo native played a pivotal role in the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks, as the lone rim protector was able to help fend off Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker. During his time with the Raptors, he averaged 14.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. The 27-year-old spent his first seven seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, before being dealt in the offseason to the Magic.
After a logjam alongside Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo, the Magic dealt him and received Terrence Ross and a future first-round pick. Raptors president Masai Ujiri had been a longtime fan of Ibaka, finally pulling the trigger on the trade just before the NBA trade deadline.
During the playoff run, Ibaka averaged 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.7 blocks in just over 30 minutes per game. With just over $76 million committed to next season, the Raptors big payday for Ibaka would certainly dampen their chances of re-signing Lowry.
However, the 6’10” forward is an ideal big man in today’s up-tempo and spaced out NBA, with the ability to knock down the long-range shot and defend the rim.