Serge Ibaka was going nowhere in a contract season with the Orlando Magic, and he may find new life with the Toronto Raptors, who were in need of a spark before the trade deadline.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Ibaka got dealt to Toronto in exchange for guard Terrence Ross and a first-round pick. League sources have reported that of Toronto’s two first-round picks in the 2017 draft, the Magic will be granted the less valuable between their slotted pick and the Los Angeles Clippers pick.
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Sitting at the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference standings, the Raptors needed to add a big who can play inside-out on both ends. Ibaka has that ability. He’s a 6-10, 235-pound guy with great athleticism, good mid-range touch and has developed into a career 36.5 percent three-point shooter. With two great one-on-one guards in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Ibaka can space the floor and be ready to hit from deep when the defense collapses. His all-around game on both ends matches up much better with the top-tier teams in the East. He can score in a multitude of ways, along with protecting the rim and switching out on guards.
As Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated reported, Toronto is more balanced against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the case with Ibaka. Jonas Valanciunas and Bebe Nogueira are one-way players in small ball scenarios, and Patrick Patterson is not a natural starter. As a third option, Ibaka has thrived throughout his career, as was the case with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Golliver also illustrated how dealing away Ross opens up more of the checkbook and second-year player Norman Powell. Toronto is looking to sign upcoming unrestricted free-agents in Lowry and Ibaka, and Powell taking over Ross’ role enables that with the cap. Powell has been a good role player on both ends so far in his young career, and it’s his time to prove what he’s worth.
In terms of the other perspective in this trade, the Magic will be able to unleash Ross. He’s shooting the best field goal percentage (44.1%) and best effective field goal percentage (54.1%) of his career. Keep in mind: he’s only been on the court for 22.4 minutes per game, which is the lowest total since his rookie season. In Orlando, he will be able to get much more shot opportunities, and who knows, maybe he’ll be able to produce another 51-point game like he did in January of 2014.
Ross should definitely be an upgrade over what the Magic’s deep threats are now. According to teamrankings.com, they rank 28th in the NBA in three-point percentage. Essentially, they can’t do any worse in the three-point department. As reported by Josh Benjamin of Forbes Sports, the addition of Ross to the perimeter should open up some room for Magic leading scorer Evan Fournier. Natural 4-man Aaron Gordon will go back to doing what he does best as well. Moving Gordon to the small forward position has been a trainwreck, at best, for the Magic thus far.
His win shares per 48 minutes have been a dismal .052, which is by far and away the worst of his young career. He’s not a perimeter shooter (29.5% from 3) or playmaker (1.9:1.1 assist-to-turnover ratio), and that’s okay; Ross can man the 3. With Ibaka gone, the high flyer will be able to take off yet again with better shooting around him to open up rim runs. The pick should also help Orlando in what will be one of the deepest drafts in years.
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