Serge Ibaka

Why Serge Ibaka would be ideal target for Kings in NBA free agency

Why Serge Ibaka would be ideal target for Kings in NBA free agency

Editor's Note: This week, NBC Sports Bay Area will theorize hypothetical front-office acquisitions for each of our teams. Today, we examine a potential move the Kings could make.

It’s never too early to look to the future.

NBC Sports Bay California wants me to play GM for a day, which is more difficult than it seems. What will the salary cap look like this offseason? How will the league deal with the incredible loss of basketball related income? Is the Kings’ core salvageable or does it need a complete reboot?

None of these questions can be answered today, but here is how I would attack the offseason if given the opportunity.

For starters, I would make it known that the team is going to match any offer sheet for shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. That could be expensive, but with so much uncertainty, it is also possible the 27-year-old wing signs his current offer at four-years and just under $52 million. 

That leaves some money still in play for the team, barring a complete collapse of the salary cap. 

The Free Agent Target

Serge Ibaka, C, Toronto Raptors

After looking like a player on the decline two seasons ago, Ibaka has made a nice recovery over the past two seasons. At 30-years-old (31 in September), Ibaka has made the postseason in all but one of his 10 seasons in the NBA and he won a ring last season with the Raptors.

Why Ibaka?

First and foremost, Ibaka is a winner and the type of veteran presence the Kings search for every summer.

Sacramento has plenty of needs. If they retain Bogdanovic, their guard rotation is pretty much intact. Bringing back veteran Kent Bazemore should be a high priority as well and that would sure up the wing rotation. 

Both Harry Giles and Alex Len are unrestricted free agents moving forward, and Marvin Bagley played a total of 13 games due to injury before the shutdown. They have minutes to work with at both power forward and center, but that player needs to be able to fit alongside both Bagley and center Richaun Holmes.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Ibaka can play both the four and the five, and he shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range last season. He easily fits in the starting lineup alongside either Bagley or Holmes or he can come off the bench as a third big. 

Sacramento was interested in both Dedmon and Al Horford last summer for their ability to play alongside Bagley and open the spacing on the floor. They gave Dedmon a three-year, $40 million contract and didn’t even make it past his first trade deadline. 

Ibaka is a more proven player than Dedmon with a long track record of success. He’s started 803 regular season games over his career, but over the last few seasons, he’s also shown an ability to work with the second unit.

While he is no longer the shot blocker he was as a young player, Ibaka is a very solid defender that would sure up some of the holes in the Kings’ rotation. In his tenth NBA season, he posted 16 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 27.5 minutes per game.

Why Ibaka would leave Toronto

The Raptors survived the defection of Kawhi Leonard last summer and are one of the teams to beat again this year if the season ever resumes.

This summer they are faced with the possibility of losing center Marc Gasol, along with guard Fred VanVleet. They are a resilient group up north, but at some point, they are going to have to invigorate the franchise with fresh blood to pair with Pascal Siakam.

Why Ibaka would sign with Sacramento

The Kings have done a solid job of attacking the free agent market over the last few seasons, adding players like George Hill, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, Nemanja Bjelica, Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph and Trevor Ariza. 

General manager Vlade Divac has had to overpay for the services of most of these players and not all of them have worked out as planned. That doesn’t change the fact that the Kings have brought in talent on the open market, which they had struggled to do in the past.

Ibaka is coming off a three-year, $64 million contract that pays him roughly $23.3 million this season. To lure the big man, Sacramento would likely have to come up with Joseph or Dedmon type money, which is roughly three years at a total of $37-40 million with the third season being a team option.

This type of contract would give Ibaka one more solid pay day before he spends the last years of his career chasing another ring at a discounted rate.

Can Sacramento clear enough space?

That’s complicated. The Kings are going to have to wait and see what the NBA decides to do with the salary cap. This isn’t a cut and dry number question like it is in a normal offseason.

Divac and his number crunching assistant GM, Ken Catanella, would have to get creative. Again, retaining Bogdanovic is priority No. 1 and keeping Bazemore in the fold would be a tremendous move as well.

[RELATED: Allen, Kings not a perfect fit]

Sacramento has to wait to see whether Jabari Parker picks up his $6.5 million player option for next season, although his contract is very moveable. They also have the ability to walk away from the final year of Bjelica’s deal, which would save an additional $7.1 million.

Signing Ibaka while retaining Bogdanovic, Bazemore and Bjelica would be ideal, but the uncertainty of the cap will dictate whether that’s possible.

NBA free agency: Warriors' best targets for 2020 NBA offseason

NBA free agency: Warriors' best targets for 2020 NBA offseason

If things were going as scheduled, NBA free agency would be starting about a month and a half from now. But these are not normal times, and any schedule that was once conceived is no longer valid.

Important NBA dates are not the only things that will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, as the financial ramifications of any lost games or games without fans will be significant.

How will this change the NBA salary cap? Will teams be more frugal with their payroll with all their financial losses? These are some important questions that will have to be answered at some point.

[RELATED: Warriors' culture appeals to veterans, youngsters]

In the meantime, however, the Warriors are preparing to enter an offseason in which they will have a high draft pick, and not much salary flexibility as they will be a luxury tax team yet again. Unless the Warriors were to make significant moves to shed money, they will only have the ability to sign veteran free agents with the tax-payer midlevel exception, and veteran minimum contracts. 

Here are some unrestricted free agent possibilities to fill veteran roles, with their 2019-20 stats and age at during the 2020-21 season. Some of them are definitely more realistic than others.


Why it was harder for Kevin Durant to leave Thunder than Warriors


Why it was harder for Kevin Durant to leave Thunder than Warriors

Kevin Durant is no stranger to making life-altering decisions.

Back in 2016, Durant stunned the world when he chose to say goodbye to the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Warriors. Three years and two NBA championships later, Durant once again packed up his stuff and moved, this time trading in the Bay Area for the glitz and glamour of New York, joining the Brooklyn Nets on a four-year contract. 

Durant has lived a privileged basketball life. Arguably the most gifted scorer in NBA history, Durant has played alongside Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Klay Thompson. KD came of age in OKC, contending for titles alongside Westbrook and Harden. He then became a champion with the Warriors, helping compile the most talented starting five in NBA history. 

Now that he's a Net, it's fair to ask: Was it harder to leave OKC or Golden State?

For Durant, the answer comes quick and without hesitation.

"Oh, leaving OKC for sure," Durant told Serge Ibaka on Bleacher Report's "How Hungry Are You?" "I mean, I spent eight years there. I built my family there. You know what I'm saying? My whole family lived out there. I done bought houses and did everything there, you know what I'm saying? Like grew up as -- in my 20s. So, it was hard to leave that place and leave like all the equipment guys -- everybody there, the support staff and obviously my teammates. Well, they understood.

"I figured y'all would understand because that's just business, but, like, the other people, I felt a way about and it took me a while to make the decision."

After a season of rumors and speculation, Durant chose to leave the Warriors for the Nets instead of the Knicks. In the end, the decision to leave the Warriors came down to one thing: He could. 

"I mean, it was another opportunity for me to play for another team," Durant told Ibaka of the move. "It wasn't that big of a deal. You know what I'm saying? It was just like, 'I wanna play for the Nets.' It's on the East Coast, close to home, the Nets are solid and it's New York City. I could pick my game up and ply anywhere, so I just did it."

[RELATED: Warriors must take break from greatness after years at top]

Durant is expected to sit out the entire season as he rehabs from rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Ibaka and the Raptors. The Warriors, on the other hand, are getting ready to open their season Thursday when they welcome Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers in the opener at Chase Center. 

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