Should the Toronto Raptors aggressively pursue Serge Ibaka trade?

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Serge Ibaka #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Serge Ibaka #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have earned 26-23 record on the season despite multiple glaring holes on the roster. The center position, which has been an issue for the past two seasons, ranks at or near the top of their list of potential needs. Could a player like Serge Ibaka help plug that hole?

Although not as bad as last season. The growing pains of Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch’s availability (or lack thereof), and the inconsistent play of Chris Boucher may have the Raptors seeking better options at the deadline.

If the reports are true that the Raptors will be buyers at the deadline, perhaps Toronto could take a nostalgic route and bring back Ibaka. The former fan-favorite spent 4 seasons in Toronto and was a key player in securing the franchise’s first championship in 2019.

Since joining the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2020 offseason, Ibaka hasn’t seen the same success with his production and minutes dropping significantly. This season he’s averaging 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds on just 14 minutes a night. All career-lows for the Congolese big.

With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George possibly out for the entire season, the Clippers could be surprise sellers at the deadline. Reports hint that Clippers vets Eric Bledsoe, Marcus Morris, and Ibaka are all available for trade. With Toronto’s need for a big, and Ibaka’s trade value as low as it is, should the Raptors buy low on Ibaka?

The Toronto Raptors should not pursue a Serge Ibaka trade.

While fans may remember Ibaka as a rim-protecting, stretch big that brought energy, he’s been just a shell of his former self recently. After undergoing season-ending back surgery in the 2021 playoffs, his return this year hasn’t exactly been a rousing success. Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein are getting minutes in front of him.

He might be able to fill a role on the bench, but he won’t provide the game-changing boost this team needs.

As a team ostensibly in retool mode, taking away minutes from a young player such as Precious Achiuwa, who’s improved throughout the season, may not be appealing to the Raptors. It becomes less appealing when the player taking his minutes is a 32-year old on the final year of his contract.

If Raptors management truly believes they’re closer to a championship than outsiders think, then perhaps they could consider trading for a more long-term option such as Myles Turner or Mo Bamba, even if they would cost more.

Ibaka is the type of addition you would make if you need one veteran to take you over a hypothetical hump, not someone who could help stabilize an ailing depth chart.

Realistically, the Raptors likely won’t be bringing home the Larry O’Brien this season. Toronto should keep investing in the youth movement and continue to develop young frontcourt players like Scottie Barnes and Achiuwa instead of giving up assets for someone who doesn’t move the needle much.

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