Toronto Raptors: Realistic goals for Serge Ibaka in 2019/20

Toronto Raptors - Serge Ibaka (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Serge Ibaka (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

Toronto Raptors power forward Serge Ibaka had one of the best seasons of his career last year. What are some goals for him moving forward this season?

Serge Ibaka came to the Toronto Raptors from the Orlando Magic during the 2016-17 season and, despite a slump in his second season, came to life in his third north of the border. Ibaka has been known to be a steady force for every team he has played on and was one of the most prolific shot blockers in the NBA during his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder. While he is not the shot-blocker he once was, he is still an elite interior defender as he found himself in the top-20 in blocks per game last season.

He was also able to throw in 15 points and 8.1 rebounds per game off the bench. Last year Serge was really good down the stretch having a great closeout Game 6 in the finals with 15 points off the bench that helped the Raptors win their first-ever championship.

With the exit of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, many players will need to step up and Serge Ibaka is one of them. If the Raptors want to make another deep run in the playoffs then the success of Ibaka could be entwined with their ambitions.

Return to form from beyond the arc

It was only two seasons ago that Serge Ibaka was shooting nearly 40-percent from the three-point line, but it took a precipitous dip this season nearing only 30-percent. The playoffs saw an even bigger drop to a staggering 23.7-percent. His inability to spread the floor hurt the team and hampered his chance to play important minutes.

Ibaka regaining his three-point shot would be crucial to the fact that this now offers a lineup where Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam can play together. He could also play without Gasol and with Siakam in the frontcourt which is very tough to guard as he opens driving lanes, creates big to big-screen actions, among other tactics.

Serge Ibaka’s bench presence will also be aided if he can regain his three-point shot. This will also allow Serge to get more playoff minutes, as when things got tough he was not able to make certain shots which made him hard to play.

The versatility that an improved three-point shot can bring to the team would put the Raptors in an even better position to become a top-five seed in the playoff picture when the season is over.

Continue great rebounding

Last year was Serge’s best rebounding per game numbers since the 2013-14 season in Oklahoma City where he averaged 8.8 per game. Serge led the team in rebounding last year with 8.1 per game with a defensive rebounding percentage at 23.2-percent, which is the best of his career. His total rebounding percentage was at 16.1-percent, the third-best number of his career.

It is easy to say that last year was one of his best overall rebounding years even while playing less minutes than he would previously have played. This is a great sign for Ibaka, and if he can continue those solid numbers this season, especially while playing more minutes – then he could potentially average a double-double.

Quality and quantity from the charity stripe

This is not the biggest thing for Serge Ibaka, however, he has shot above 80-percent from the free throw line before and getting to that point again would be helpful to the Toronto Raptors because the team will need more scoring with the loss of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. If Ibaka can use his strong inside presence – combined with his great offensive rebounding – to muscle his way into some looks at the rim, he could get to the line more often.

While Ibaka shouldn’t be expected to get to the free-throw line as often as James Harden, upping his rate from 2.4 per game to somewhere in the region of three to four times per game would be a great way to further his offensive impact. Getting to the line is important, but to top it off, Serge Ibaka will have to put the ball in the basket when it matters the most.

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Serge Ibaka has every opportunity this season to be among the top-three in scoring on the Toronto Raptors as well as the best rebounder on the team. If he can build on his success from last season, while attaining these realistic goals, then the Raptors could be in for a strong season.