The Serge Ibaka Trade Is a Win-Win for Everyone Involved
With the NBA Trade deadline now less than 10 days away, we expected things to heat up on the trade market. However, it's unlikely anyone saw it heating up this quickly.
Following a weekend deal that sent Mason Plumlee to Denver and Jusuf Nurkic to Portland, the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic have reportedly agreed to send Serge Ibaka to Toronto. The Raptors have sent five-year veteran Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick to the Magic in exchange for the veteran's services, according to The Vertical.
The popular reaction is Toronto has finally added the power forward they've been without since the days of Chris Bosh. There's so much more to it than that, though. What does it all mean for both squads going forward?
Impact on the Magic
At first, it's hard to believe the Magic were so willing to unload a player they had just acquired in the offseason -- Orlando did give up Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and first-round pick Domantas Sabonis in a trade back in June. However, if reports are correct, the Magic were uncertain about Ibaka's future with the organization and they didn't expect him to re-sign when he became a free agent this summer.
For that reason, this appears to be a good move for the Magic. It's better for them to get something back now instead of losing him and getting nothing. In essence, they mitigated the overall damage of a few questionable front office decisions.
Orlando gave up Oladipo, the No. 11 pick and Ilyasova for 3 months of Ibaka, Terrence Ross and a late first rounder. Oops.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 14, 2017
"Oops" is right. As they say, though, two wrongs don't make a right.
By holding onto Ibaka, the Magic would have never secured an additional first-round pick. Instead of three months for Ross and a late first-rounder, they would've gotten two more months for what? Nothing. The Magic aren't going anywhere right now. And that's the point.
Orlando cut their losses and made a move with an eye toward the future. The front office seems to be stuck between competing now and blowing it all up, and if this move is any indication, they're favoring the latter.
This trade not only adds a valuable wing player in Ross (0.7 nERD, which is our player ranking that measures a player's overall contribution, based on efficiency), but it provides them with an opportunity to add talent in a very deep draft class.
Taking Ibaka out of the equation should also open up minutes for Aaron Gordon (27.5 per game) at the four while also giving head coach Frank Vogel the flexibility to experiment with combinations of Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic down low.
Impact on the Raptors
For some time now, the Raptors have been in dire need of an effective power forward to pair with Jonas Valanciunas in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, Masai Ujiri, the Raptors' general manager, has long coveted Ibaka, making this an ideal fit.
This season, Toronto has deployed a combination of Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam and Lucas Nogueira at the power forward position. These three have combined for 16.9 points per game and a nERD of 1.3.
As a single player, Ibaka brings averages of 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 30.5 minutes per game this season. His 1.4 nERD suggests a slight improvement over what the Raptors have worked with up to this point, but their new acquisition could prove to be even more of an upgrade if he were to return to his earlier form.
Prior to his last two years with the Thunder -- in which he earned nERD scores of 2.4 and 1.2 in consecutive years -- Ibaka posted a nERD of at least 6.2 in four straight seasons. Even in Toronto's 27 remaining games, that could prove oh-so-valuable for a team just four games back of the 2 seed in the East.
As for what they're giving up, it's only trivial. Ross has contributed 10.4 points per game, but second-year player Norman Powell has shown he can step into that bench role. In 51 games, Powell has tallied 7.1 points in just 17.1 minutes per contest.
The first-round pick is about as equally expendable. The Raptors own two first-round picks -- their own and one courtesy of the Los Angeles Clippers. The trade details indicate Toronto will pass along the lesser of the two picks for this upcoming draft, so they even get off easy there. And if, after this season, the Raptors can convince Ibaka to re-sign a long-term contract, they'll capitalize on this deal three-fold.
While both teams benefit in some way, the Raptors take away much more. The Magic recover from their losses and add to future opportunities, but the Raptors add to an Eastern Conference contender for now and quite possibly for the future.