Serge Ibaka will be one of the most coveted free agents this offseason. He isn’t a superstar, but he brings in all the necessary intangibles to become a major piece for a contender. Ibaka is a major defensive presence, one of the toughest veterans in the league, and all-in-all a fantastic teammate. Last season, for the Toronto Raptors, he averaged 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1 block per game. Although he’s a big man and can thrive in the paint, he also shot 38.5 percent from three. If he leaves the Raptors, there are three great landing spots for him.
Serge Ibaka: Top Three Free Agent Landing Spots
Option 1: Serge Ibaka Strengthens the New Orleans Frontcourt
The New Orleans Pelicans came very close to making the playoffs last season, and that came with star rookie Zion Williamson missing a large portion of the year. Besides Williamson, they have enough young star power to make a run with names such as Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram (assuming he re-signs), Jaxon Hayes, and more.
Derrick Favors, who started at center for the Pelicans last season, is now a free agent. Although he performed well, Ibaka is definitely an upgrade. Williamson can clog the paint and spell doom for opposing defenses in there, so having a floor-spreader like Ibaka at hand would pay dividends. The two would also pair well defensively, and Ibaka is a tough veteran who could provide mentorship for Williamson.
Rumors are also swirling about a potential Jrue Holiday trade for the Pelicans. If this comes to fruition, then Ibaka’s veteran leadership will once again be needed. Surrounding the young stars with players like Ibaka and J.J. Redick will be ideal for head coach Stan Van Gundy.
Williamson is the present and future of the Pelicans, so their goal will be to provide him with as much complementing talent as they can. Ibaka fits this role perfectly. In a tough Western Conference, this young squad will need Ibaka’s talent and savvy.
Option Two: Serge Ibaka makes the Dallas Mavericks Contenders
The Dallas Mavericks are already fringe-contenders thanks to Luka Doncic. Kristaps Porzingis is a fantastic second-option, while role players like Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Maxi Kleber exceed expectations.
In their first-round playoff series versus the Los Angeles Clippers, two things became clear. Dallas needs a more defensive-minded big man and a player who surrounds the current youth with toughness. Ibaka brings both of these things. He’s a better defender than Porzingis but also adds to the team’s historic offense with his ability to stretch the floor. Ibaka is also known around the league as being one of the toughest and grittiest players.
Furthermore, Porzingis got injured in that series and should miss a few weeks of next season with it slated to start on December 22nd. Ibaka would immediately be thrust into a major starting role, but one that he should have no issues in. He’ll find open looks on the perimeter thanks to Doncic’s brilliance, and will also be a major lob-threat.
At 31-years-old, it’s obvious that Ibaka will want to contend. The Mavericks present that opportunity along with a major role on the team for the next couple of seasons.
Option Three: The Los Angeles Lakers Climb Towards a Repeat
There’s no convincing that has to be done to call the Los Angeles Lakers contenders. They’re the reigning champions, have LeBron James, and Anthony Davis is more than likely to return. With this being said, there are virtually no free agents that wouldn’t listen to a pitch from the Lakers.
James and Davis are guaranteed starters, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may be the same after his great playoff performances. This is not the same case for other players on the roster. Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma are involved in trade rumors. Javale McGee and Dwight Howard made for a solid duo, but it can be improved. Enter Ibaka.
A pairing of Davis and Ibaka would be nearly unmatchable. Both are stars defensively, and both can spread the floor offensively. Teams will naturally focus more on Davis, which will allow Ibaka to have plenty of open shots on offense. Defensively, no player will ever have an easy time driving to the rim.
The Lakers will have to make some moves to pay Ibaka what he’s worth. If not, however, it’s not unrealistic for Ibaka to take a pay-cut in order to play for the reigning champions. It’s not often one has the chance to play with two generational talents in James and Davis, so the Lakers will be a tough offer to decline.
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