Free agency begins in a couple of days for the Toronto Raptors and the NBA. The Raptors have some high profile free-agent decisions to make, and Serge Ibaka is one of them while rumors abound about his status.
The Toronto Raptors 2020 off-season choices may be the most consequential decisions the franchise has made in a long time. Fred VanVleet appears to be headed for a bidding war that could more than triple his annual salary of 9 million when free agency negotiations begin on November 20th, 2020.
Fred VanVleet appears to be the prize for teams seeking a point guard this off-season. Serge Ibaka’s negotiation powers would seem to be somewhat diminished. He is one of several centers available in free agency, including Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, and Anthony Davis (likely to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers).
Now that teams also know what the league salary cap restrictions will be, 109 million with a luxury tax at 123 million, they can determine their spending power and attempt to make the transactions that will fill out their rosters. Serge Ibaka earned 23.2 million in 2019/20 and may need to accept a pay cut.
His stat line was impressive with the Toronto Raptors this past season. Ibaka averaged 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and shot 38.5 percent from behind the three-point arc per game. He did this as the backup center averaging 27 minutes per game.
As things stand on the verge of free agency 2020, the Toronto Raptors do not have a bonafide center under contract with both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka eligible free agents. It is arguable whether Fred VanVleet or finding at least a pair of big men to play in the frontcourt should be Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri’s priority in a couple of days.
The latest rumor surrounding Serge Ibaka’s free agency
In a tweet earlier today, Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson, a senior writer for heavy.com, expressed a notion that the Brooklyn Nets have an interest in Serge Ibaka.
The idea is not unrealistic as Serge Ibaka, and Kevin Durant were teammates with the Oklahoma City Thunder for seven seasons between 2010-2017. Both players played a key role in the OKC Thunder’s attempt to win an NBA title in 2012. Serge Ibaka averaged 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.7 blocked shots per game in that season.
Serge Ibaka would make a great compliment as a third scoring option behind Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant as a player who does not need the ball. Further, Ibaka remains a strong rim protector.
Other rumors surrounding the Toronto Raptors free agent center
Sean Deveney of Heavy.com earlier this month wrote a story indicating that the Los Angeles Lakers might be interested in signing Serge Ibaka as well. He was told by an NBA general manager that he (Serge Ibaka):
"“is exactly the kind of combo big guy that team needs. They have had interest in him before and they will again. When he is healthy he is an excellent spot starter at the 5 (center) and the 4 (power forward). He is as good a bench big guy as there is in the league. He was a really credible 3-point threat last year. If he is willing to accept what the Lakers can afford to give him, I know they would want him.”"
This rumor is less likely as the current champion Los Angeles Lakers already have JaVale McGee under contract and will need to re-sign Anthony Davis, who the Los Angeles Lakers traded many assets for the last off-season. Dwight Howard, who was on the Lakers 2020 championship roster, is now also a free agent. The Los Angeles Lakers would need to make several transactions to free up cap space to chase Serge Ibaka.
Toronto Raptors salary cap situation
The Toronto Raptors have approximately 87 million dollars already committed to nine players under the salary cap. The Raptors do hold the Bird Rights on both Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka. This means the Toronto Raptors could bring both players back with new multi-year deals even if they put the team over the salary cap.
A decision like that by Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri would also mean the Toronto Raptors would be paying the luxury tax in 2021 unless they make other moves to get under the cap.
The potential trading of any of Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, and or Stanley Johnson would help keep the team more financially flexible even if it temporarily weakens the roster. At the same time, management would be trying to redistribute the salary to fill the roster.
Regardless of the rumor mill surrounding Serge Ibaka, it would be a prudent decision to bring him back for another year or two. The only issue would be how much of a salary cap hit the team has to take, but the Toronto Raptors have options to fill their frontcourt in free agency.