The Toronto Raptors did not go all-in on Serge Ibaka. They traded Terrence Ross and the lesser of their pick and the Clippers first round pick they own. Multiple trusted NBA reporters have told you the Raptors have gone all-in for Serge Ibaka.
How can that be true?
The Raptors still have a first round pick and their younger players. In poker, all-in typically means putting all your chips in the middle of the table on a hand. In this one deal for Ibaka, the Raptors did not give up all their assets. However, the Raptors are in win now mode so potentially they could still go all-in with their assets if they wanted to.
The Raptors could make another trade, but it won’t be as easy as the Ibaka trade. Since Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, and Patrick Patterson are all free agents this summer the Raptors cannot afford to take on more salary. It is assumed they if they re-sign these players the Raptors will be in the luxury tax. Therefore, the Raptors will need to offload salary. This is where it gets tough. How do you dump salary when you want to improve your team? Well if the Raptors were making another trade they would need to target a cost-controlled player.
Serge Ibaka is a great addition to the Raptors who have needed a power forward for several seasons. However, he’s no longer in his prime so it’s hard to expect that he will be a superstar for the Raptors. Shawn Marion comes to mind when thinking of what the Ibaka addition means to me. Marion was beyond his prime when the Raptors traded for him, but he played very well for the Raptors in 27 games. Marion averaged 14 PPG, 8 RPG, and was pretty good defensively. I would expect similar number from Serge Ibaka. The difference being Ibaka is a much better three-point shooter and shot-blocker than Marion was.
What do the Raptors need?
The Raptors could use a wing that replaces Terrence Ross’s three-point shooting and we have already established the Raptors need a cost-controlled player. The player that comes to mind is Robert Covington. He’s only making about $1M and has a team option for next season that anyone trading for would pick up. Now Robert Covington has been a really good role player for Philly so they would definitely want something decent in return. The Raptors could offer Jared Sullinger and their remaining first round pick for Robert Covington. With the additional of Serge Ibaka, Jared Sullinger may never see the court again this season and will likely be gone at the end of the year. The Sixers have enough bigs so why would they want Sullinger? They wouldn’t, but the Raptors have to give up a player and salary if they want one back. The incentive for the Sixers is the first-round pick. It’s likely, that this is the best Robert Covington will ever be. Maybe Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers will want to gamble they can get a better player with a first round pick or at the very least a player that fits the timeline of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Covington isn’t the three-point shooter Terrence Ross is, but he’s a much better defender than Ross. Finally, the Raptors don’t need a draft pick. They are already having trouble finding minutes for Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, and Pascal Siakam who have all flashed potential when they see the court. Furthermore, Norman Powell and Bebe are both developing nicely. So, the Raptors already clearly have a nice core of young guys.
If the Raptors traded for Covington, DeMarre Carroll would become expendable. Therefore, in the off-season the Raptors could trade Carroll for nothing and have the money to re-sign Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Patrick Patterson without paying an obscene luxury tax bill.