Serge Ibaka Was Disappointing But Isn't Totally Worthless

Serge Ibaka doesn't really have value, but he can still potentially be productive.

Serge Ibaka was traded to the Toronto Raptors on February 14th, 2017 for Terrence Ross and pick 25 in the 2017 NBA draft. It felt like the consensus at the time was that it was a great trade for the Raptors who have needed a power forward ever since Chris Bosh left. Serge clearly wasn’t the shot-blocking sensation he once was in OKC, but he did expand his game to include a three-point shot.

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Best Moment

Serge Ibaka’s best moment of the year was game one against the Wizards in the playoffs. Without Serge and OG, the Raptors probably don’t win this game. And if the Raptors don’t win game one against the Wizards that series could have taken a violent turn.

Game One vs. Wizards

23 PTS, 12 REB, 2 BLK, 1 TO, 8/11 FG, 3/4 3P. 4/4 FT

Regular Season Grade

It feels like there is this looming opinion that Serge Ibaka was awful this season and was unplayable. At times he was and there’s no way of sugarcoating it, but for the most part, Serge Ibaka was okay. On a scale from raw potato to potato skins, I’d rate him as undercooked french fries. They don't taste great, but you can consume them. Maybe we call that a C+.

In the regular season, Ibaka shot well from the restricted area, the mid-range, and both corner threes (although he did not take many). He shot okay from the above the break three, but it was 7.5% lower than the sensational 41.8% he shot from that spot a year ago. With Ibaka, his shooting averages from the different zones might seem good, but he really wasn’t consistent this year. For example, in February he shot 43.5% from the field and 27.1% from three and then in March he shot 41.3% from the field and 33.3% from three. When Ibaka shoots that poorly he tends to be neutral if he’s playing defense and a negative if he’s not.

Restricted Area Mid-Range Left Corner 3 Right Corner 3 Above The Break 3
68.2% 49.8% 41.4% 50.0% 34.3%
FGM FGM FGM FGM FGM
103 100 12 8 86

The playoffs, on the other hand, are a totally different story. Aside from that great game one as mentioned Serge Ibaka was pretty terrible in the playoffs. That’s a D+ at best. I have no scale to describe how Serge looked like he couldn't catch a basketball or dribble in critical moments.

Value or Lack Thereof

Currently, Serge Ibaka doesn’t have any trade value. In fact, I’d wager a guess that he has negative trade value based upon Serge isn’t aging gracefully and the fact that he’s owed roughly $45M over the next two years. By negative value I mean the Raptors would have to attach an asset to entice a team to eat Ibaka’s contract. Since the Raptors don’t have any picks this year that asset would likely have to be one of the Raptors good young players which they probably shouldn't do.

Future

So, it’s probably unlikely the Masai trades Serge Ibaka this summer. There has to be a way the Raptors get something out of him. Plus, next summer Serge Ibaka will have an expiring contract that might make him easier to move.

The 2018 Serge Solution

1) 50-50 Timeshare

If the Raptors play Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam each 24 minutes per game maybe they can band-aid the PF position.

2) Sitting Back-to-Backs

If Serge Ibaka cannot play a full season anymore maybe he could be rested so the maximum he is playing is once every two days.

3) Bench Role

There’s always the possibly Serge Ibaka can become a bench player. It might sound kind of insane based on the money the Raptors are paying him, but they cannot change the money part. So, at the very least if you can get 15-20 productive minutes off the bench from him it’s not the worst thing. This would require Pascal Siakam to play starters minutes which may or may not be fine. If it’s not fine, OG Anunoby could definitely play some power forward minutes if needed.

It’s not ideal that Serge Ibaka is making $45M over the next two seasons, but the Raptors should still be a good team. Nick Nurse should be able to get something out of him on the court and if Pascal Siakam is ready to shine the Raptors might be better than expected.

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