The Toronto Raptors were unable to retain the services of center Serge Ibaka this offseason, as he traded in a role as a starter in Toronto for the chance to chase a championship with the Los Angeles Clippers. As painful as it was for Toronto fans, it looked like a perfect fit.
Even though the Clippers needed a point guard, Ibaka could’ve been the perfect stretch big to accentuate Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the perimeter. 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game during the regular season served as another testament to his quality.
However, Ibaka and the Clippers have had a rough go of it in the postseason against the Dallas Mavericks, as Luka Doncic and company have them down 0-2, and the lack of Ibaka playing time in Tyronn Lue’s new rotation is mind-boggling.
Ibaka has played just 18 minutes in the series, watching Doncic eviscerate whoever they try to guard him with. The Raptors needed a center, but Ibaka turned them down to join a Clippers team that favors Ivica Zubac over him.
Serge Ibaka should never have left the Toronto Raptors.
Masai Ujiri is not prone to too many egregious errors, but lowballing Ibaka turned out to be one that ruined the Raptors this season. With him and Marc Gasol out of town, the Raptors settled on Aron Baynes and Alex Len, the former of whom was so bad his name is a curse word in Canada and the latter of whom was cut after just a few weeks.
The Raptors did eventually solve their issues by landing Khem Birch from the Orlando Magic, but him and Ibaka are not in the same tier right now, and the Congolese stud’s shot-blocking and shooting would’ve helped Toronto win a few games here and there.
Ibaka has been a +17 in this series, while Zubac and Marcus Morris have been extreme liabilities. He is still as effective as he was in Toronto, but Lue doesn’t seem to trust him in the playoffs.
The grass always does look greener on the other side, but Ibaka is finding out that the Clippers don’t even think enough of him to throw him out there when they are leaking coolant. Granted, the Clippers made the playoffs while the Raptors didn’t, but Ibaka would surely enjoy a starting role over warming the bench.
So the Raptors lose a starting center and the Clippers fail to acquire one. Not the best bit of business for everyone involved.