The Toronto Raptors are trading for Serge Ibaka, sending Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The pick will be the lesser of the Raptors or Los Angeles Clippers’ first-rounder this season, per Wojnarowski. The news comes just after the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that Kevin Love will miss six weeks after undergoing knee surgery.
Multiple sources tell CelticsBlog that the Celtics and Magic had discussed an Ibaka deal, but the Celtics were not willing to include Terry Rozier. The Celtics are not interested in surrendering assets of value, including first-round picks and prospects like Rozier, for short-term acquisitions that do not clearly put them over the top for title contention, per sources. The Raptors became motivated to go all in after the Love news, as some around the NBA believe he may not make it back this year per sources.
The Celtics have the cap space to sign a player like Ibaka this offseason and don’t need his bird rights, so using assets to acquire him or any other player where bird rights are not a factor this season only makes sense if it gives them a clear advantage against Cleveland. The Raptors won’t have cap room when they max out Kyle Lowry this offseason, making Ross—who was on his way out the door—and a first a fair price to determine if they want to dive into the luxury tax to keep Ibaka in the long term.
Ibaka is happy to be traded to Toronto and hopes to sign a long-term deal with Toronto this summer, per a source close to the player.
After making three straight all-defensive first teams from 2012-2014, his defense has been a far cry from his early days in Oklahoma City. The Thunder traded him to Orlando this offseason for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to Domantas Sabonis. Toronto is betting that his defense was more a symptom of the disarray with Orlando than what he actually has left in the tank. Ibaka’s real age has always been a point of speculation in the league, something that is sometimes a concern for players born in developing nations going through civil war like DR Congo, according to multiple sources.
The Ibaka deal, in the wake of the Plumlee deal, helps set the market for centers on a contract year. This gives clearer indication that the Celtics would need to surrender at least a first-pick for the 2018 draft to acquire a backup center to help improve their interior defense, something that has been an objective throughout the season.
Their defensive rating continues to improve from the pit it was in to start the season. They are 14th in the NBA in defensive rating since the beginning of December at 106.7 and tied for 8th with San Antonio in points allowed in the paint per 100 possessions at 42.1, according to NBA Stats.