Every so often leading into the NBA’s trade deadline, there’s a high-profile player or five who seems overwhelmingly likely to get dealt. And by this we mean it becomes a huge shock should said player finish the season with his current team.
This year, Serge Ibaka falls under that umbrella. There’s a new spin on the same-old scoop almost everyday, each report seemingly reiterating the Orlando Magic’s firm desire to ship him elsewhere ahead of the trade deadline.
The latest from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has a “handful” of teams talking shop with Orlando, the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors being chief among them:
Sources say Toronto and Miami are among the Eastern Conference teams that have expressed interest in Ibaka this month. More than one rival club has expressed the belief that Orlando will use the next 10 days before the deadline to keep fielding offers and then, ultimately, choose the best available package for Ibaka on Feb. 23 and make the move.
Having slipped to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors need a jolt of some kind. But their defense hasn’t necessarily been the problem, and Ibaka isn’t going to solve their offensive problems. He won’t increase their ball movement and is only valuable if the Raptors are going to milk his spot-up shooting abilities off kick-outs.
The Heat are a tantalizing option. Paring Ibaka with Hassan Whiteside would arguably make for the best defensive frontline in the league. Neither passes very much or creates his own shot, which will leave the Heat dependent on Goran Dragic to generate ball movement more than ever, but Ibaka spaces the floor enough to excel beside Whiteside.
It’s beyond unclear what either team would be willing to give up for Ibaka. He is slated for free agency this summer, so whomever acquires him must be prepared to throw max money in his direction.
Toronto, for its part, won’t have cap space over the offseason and can justify giving up a little more for Ibaka if it believes he’s a missing piece. But Miami will have bundles of cap space. Having Ibaka’s pre-contract cap hit on the books would allot team president Pat Riley more flexibility to sign additional free agents, but it’s tough to build a package the Magic would accept that doesn’t include a first-round pick or one of the Heat’s kiddies—assets they have no business trading.
With a little more than 10 days separating us from the deadline, don’t expect this to be the extent of Ibaka rumors. More suitors are bound to emerge.