Now that Serge Ibaka is with the Toronto Raptors, who have slipped significantly in the East since losing 11 of their last 15 games, how does that change what the Wizards might do going into the Feb. 23 trade deadline?
Not a whole lot. The Raptors have the 'stretch' power forward that they've needed for two seasons after using Luis Scola one year ago and going between rookie Pascal Siakam (a rookie), Patrick Patterson (a backup) and Jared Sullinger (a backup) as the starter.
Ibaka is shooting a career-high 39% from three-point range and is a more atheltic option. He's also has been a starter since 2011-12 with the Oklahoma City Thunder (under current Wizards coach Scott Brooks) and for his 56 games with the Orlando Magic before he was shipped out during his first season there.
Ibaka averages 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds, but his presence did little to boost the Magic who are 21-36 for the second-worst record in the East entering Wednesday's games.
Although it was widely reported that the Wizards had "interest" in Ibaka, those reports weren't accurate, as CSNmidatlantic.com reported at the time. There was no real interest:
What's wrong with Ibaka?
Nothing. But Markieff Morris is the starter at his spot. Pre-Morris, Ibaka would've been of signficiant interest but the Wizards now have an elite starting five. Fixing something that's not broken with the kind of roll they're on would be a terrible idea. Ibaka primarily is a face-up player. He doesn't post up much or play comfortably with his back to the basket. Morris can do both. Hide a small on Morris, he'll exploit him in the post. Put a traditional big on him, he'll break him down off the bounce 20 feet from the rim and get the shot he wants almost every time. This is about what's right with Morris, who has had seven double-doubles since Jan. 8.
Financially, would it have made any sense for Washington?
Not in the slightest. First, you'd be ignoring the greater need to create a logjam at a position where you have no need. The bigger need is for a scoring guard behind Bradley Beal with Marcus Thornton out of the rotation and rookie Sheldon McClellan not ready. If Ibaka were to be relegated to the bench behind Morris, there's a good chance you'd have no chance of retaining him in free agency. That makes no sense given the Wizards would've had to relinquish more than Morris in such a deal to make it work via salary matching. If Morris goes to the bench, it's a bit disrespectful for a player who has done more than enough to earn his spot. Ibaka is an unrestricted free agent after this season. He's likely to get a significant bump from $12.5 million he's making on that expiring deal. In the open market, he could fetch $20 million-plus. Morris, who averages 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 36% three-point shooting, is under contract through 2019 at an average of $8 million. Give up a first-round pick as Toronto did to acquire Ibaka, no matter how well or badly he plays, means you're committed to retaining him. The Wizards already have a big ticket item coming up this summer in Otto Porter who is restricted. For a team that's over the salary cap but under the luxury tax, such a move creates more problems than it solves.
Does this make Toronto better?
Who knows. A lot of deals look great on paper. You can't force chemistry. The Raptors will have it or they won't, but they had to do something as they slide down the standings after finishing as the second-best team in the East last season by advancing to the conference finals. They're still the underdog in a matchup with the champion Cleveland Cavaliers and this doesn't even assure them of being better than the Boston Celtics and Wizards though in theory it should make them more competitive. Ibaka's presence didn't change the Magic a whole lot.
Did Toronto give up too much?
What they sacrificed is about right for a player such as Ibaka, but he's unrestricted, He can leave and join any team he wants to this summer. If the pairing of the two doesn't work, yes, the Raptors will have given up too much. They didn't just send a first-round pick but Terrence Ross who is a solid bench player/borderline starter. Ross, a good athlete who flourishes in the open court, averages 10.4 points and shoots 38% from three. At 6-7, he played shooting guard and small forward. If Ibaka leaves, the Raptors will have given up that pick and Ross for a rental that lasted fewer than 30 games. The reward can be high but the risk could be higher. Last season at this time, the Wizards had talks about acquiring Ryan Anderson from the New Orleans Pelicans. They wouldn't make the deal, however, because the Pelicans wanted a first-round pick for a player who was on an expiring deal. That means the $20 million that Anderson fetched in the open market last summer as an unrestricted free agent would've cost more to keep him. Give up a first-round pick, there has to be assurances that player doesn't leave. With Morris under contract multiyears it made him the far more attractive option.
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