I’ve said it all this season that the Toronto Raptors were a defensive PF away from taking control of the Eastern Conference away from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. With news hitting Tuesday morning that the Raptors have sent Terrance Ross and a 2017 first round pick to the Orlando Magic for Ibaka, it all came to light.
Orlando has agreed to trade Serge Ibaka to Toronto for Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick, league sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 14, 2017
This is a brilliant move on the Raptors part as they will look to get back on track after losing six of their last 10 games and falling into a fourth-place tie wth the Atlanta Hawks. What this move does for the Raptors is provide them with the inside presence they so desperately needed since the departure of Bismack Biyombo last offseason.
Ibaka also brings playoff experience from his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder along with the ability to play second fiddle to superstars, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Ibaka will be looked upon to do little scoring as his main focus will be rebounding and shot blocking, a skill that very few in the league can say they do better. For the 2016-17 season, Ibaka has averaged 15 points, seven rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 30 minutes.
If the Toronto Raptors are to be taken as serious contenders they were in need of an inside presence that could contend with the rebounding machine that is Kevin Love. Now, with Love being out up to six weeks due to knee surgery, the Raptors are in prime position to make a run for the #1 seed in the conference.
Ibaka is set to become a free agent at the end of the year but GM Masai Ujiri is looking to have him re-sign in the summer giving the Raptors their own version of a big 4. Ibaka will join a team that is only six games out of the top seed in the East but carries a huge chip on their shoulder from last year. The Toronto Raptors tasted the EC Finals last season but due to injuries and cold shooting they fell to the Cavs.
This trade puts them in a position to be the favorites heading into the playoff and if Ibaka can be that ripple effect needed on the defensive end of the floor then the Raptors just became the most dangerous team in the NBA.