Serge Ibaka is a free agent this summer, and the Brooklyn Nets could fill their biggest void by signing him.
The 2017 free agent class is one of the weaker ones regarding big-name talent. Yes, Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry will be in the pool, but the Brooklyn Nets are highly unlikely to pry them away from where they reside.
Brooklyn has three free agents of their own in that class: Luis Scola, Randy Foye and Bojan Bogdanovic. Scola and Foye are both up in the air, and shouldn’t be retained if they don’t come out of their early season slumps. Bogdanovic is likely to be resigned and rightfully so.
One of the relatively big names this offseason will be Serge Ibaka, who got traded to the Orlando Magic in the deal that sent Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Nets’ biggest issue this year is defense. Ibaka’s best asset is his defense.
It’s a match made in heaven.
Although the former two stayed with Miami and Portland, respectively, Johnson said Marks helped validate his worth.
Financials aren’t an issue with Brooklyn, and if Ibaka feels he’s worth $18 million or more, Marks would be able to front him the money. Most other teams won’t be able to.
In fact, only the Philadelphia 76ers will have more cap room next summer, according to Spotrac.
Is Ibaka worth upwards of $18 million? Absolutely.
For perspective: the Knicks gave Joakim Noah $72 million over four years, and Ibaka is a much better player.
Even though Serge had his best statistical years early in his career, he’s still in his physical prime at just 27-years-old, which is promising. Furthermore, he’s never battled with injuries and has only played fewer than 70 games in one season.
Never has Ibaka been a high-usage player, and he’s also never had a tremendous load regarding minutes. For his career, he averages 28.9 minutes a night. This year with Orlando, it’s barely over 30.
There has been tremendous evolution and development in Ibaka’s game, and he’s no longer just a defensive presence.
When he came to the NBA from the Congo, his physical attributes — 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan — were enough to get him minutes because there wasn’t a shot he couldn’t alter. As a result, he made three-straight All-Defensive First Teams from 2011-14 and led the league in blocks each of those years.
Those years are behind him for the most part, although he could return to that form if he were to land in Brooklyn. Ibaka is still a defensive game-changer; the only thing that changed is the volume of his blocked shots.
I earnestly believe Serge could almost singlehandedly change the Nets’ defense.
As it stands, Trevor Booker and Brook Lopez are Brooklyn’s top-two interior defenders. Are they bad? No. Are they great? No. collectively they’re decent enough to keep opponents manageable, but one has to be on the floor at all times.
Booker brings the energy and tenacity to Brooklyn’s defense, but he gives up a bit of size and isn’t a rim protector; Lopez is more of a rim protector that Booker is, but he’s not very athletic and has issues guarding the pick-and-roll.
Ibaka does all of that. I touched on his physicals earlier, but his athleticism cannot get overlooked, and it’s a huge reason why he’s able to protect the rim so effectively. He can also move laterally with nice fluidity, and his massive frame covers a ton of ground.
Out of the three bigs, Ibaka has the lowest PPP when defending the roll man on pick-and-roll:
- Ibaka: 18 possessions, .72 PPP, 75.8 percentile
- Lopez: 22 possessions, .82 PPP, 54.3 percentile
- Booker: 22 possessions, .86 PPP, 47.4 percentile
Another interesting wrinkle comes with Ibaka’s improved offense. He’s shooting a career-best 40.9 percent from downtown, and he’s connected on 27 through 21 games. Not only that, Ibaka has a post game sufficient enough to be a threat, and the Nets’ guards would be able to run pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop with him.
Something that’s just as important as stats is experience. Ibaka’s young, but he’s suited up for 89 playoff games in his short career. That’s good for tenth since he entered the league, according to Basketball-Reference.
His addition wouldn’t fix all of Brooklyn’s problems, but it would be a step in the right direction.
All data courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com unless otherwise noted