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Dissecting Serge Ibaka's trade to Raptors, what it means for Wizards

Dissecting Serge Ibaka's trade to Raptors, what it means for Wizards

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. 

[RELATED: Pistons willing to trade All-Star Andre Drummond]

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.

[RELATED: Bradley Beal's All-Star hopes still alive]

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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