Serge Ibaka back to the Toronto Raptors? It might not be that far-fetched.
A key piece of the 2019 NBA champion Raptors squad, Ibaka, is currently playing with the Milwaukee Bucks in the midst of a push for his second NBA title.
But whether he wins another ring or not, Ibaka is currently slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer should he choose to be (and the Bucks don’t re-sign him).
Ibaka is in the final year of a two-year deal originally signed with the Los Angeles Clippers and is making $9.7 million this season with Early Bird contract rights available as a veteran free agent.
Back in September, Ibaka did a Q&A on his Instagram page that hinted at the possibility of a reunion with Toronto.
“Never say never,” Ibaka replied, adding in another story that there are “Definitely things I miss about Toronto.”
Ibaka, a 12-year veteran, likely doesn’t have too many chances left to decide where he’d like to spend his playing career. He’s in the stage where short-term, low-money deals are common, and there could be a spot for him on Toronto’s roster if the interest is mutual.
His LA tenure with the Clippers didn’t quite go as planned, being shipped off at the trade deadline as part of a multi-team deal.
Ibaka averaged 6.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 54 games this season. Results are off from his career averages of 12.1 points and 7.2 rebounds but slightly up from his career average of 0.8 assists.
He hasn’t had much playing time in the playoffs, putting up just 22 minutes in six games so far for the Bucks. He also missed their Game 4 against Boston with a non-COVID illness.
But the Raptors were highly appreciative of Ibaka’s time with the team.
“When Serge got going and was kind of in his A-game element, man, we hardly ever lost,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said back in December.
The Raptors have to explore if they’ll bring back Chris Boucher, who is due for a pay increase after making $7.2 million this past year. They’re also potentially searching for another veteran voice in the room with the pending departure of 33-year-old Thad Young, who they acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for Goran Dragic.
He might not be the player he was three years ago, but there’s a case for him to come back to the roster. If Ibaka finds his way back to Toronto, well, we wouldn’t be too shocked.