Raptors Free Agency Rumors: Serge Ibaka Coming Back? [Opinion]

The Toronto Raptors saw their 2017-18 season end in disappointing fashion after being swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

All of this has immediately shifted the franchise’s attention toward their offseason plans. Much of that has centered around the future of Kyle Lowry, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after completing the final year of his four-year, $48 million deal with the Raptors.

However, Toronto does possess another key soon-to-be free agent in veteran forward Serge Ibaka, who just played out the final season of his four-year, $49.4 million deal. In light of that, Steve Kyler of NBA Insiders is reporting that Ibaka has indicated to the Raptors that he plans on returning on a new deal in the summer.

“Most in NBA circles believe that Ibaka made it clear to the Magic the only team he wanted to land with was Toronto, and it’s likely why other teams in the hunt for him passed on giving big assets,” Kyler said. “League sources said that a new deal for Ibaka is basically done and that it will start in the $20 million range. It’s possible someone surfaces on July 1 with a better offer, but given Ibaka’s age and rocky season in Orlando, that seems unlikely.”

Serge Ibaka was acquired by Toronto from the Orlando Magic prior to the trade deadline in February in exchange for swingman Terrence Ross and a future first-round draft pick. Serge Ibaka quickly made a seamless transition with his new team averaging 14.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 23 games played.

[Image by Nick Wass/AP]

Serge Ibaka remained productive in the playoffs averaging 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 10 games played. Ibaka’s return would bring some much-needed stability to the front court while keeping the Raptors in the position to be a competitive team in the playoffs. Serge Ibaka is a valuable rim protector that has the ability to be the anchor defensively for Toronto.

At the same time, there is some concern over the long haul with Serge Ibaka surrounding his knees. Ibaka had undergone arthroscopic surgery in February 2015 due to knee soreness.

Serge Ibaka may not be able to lift Toronto into serious championship contention to challenge the Cavaliers, but he brings stability to the franchise. Serge Ibaka did show some decline in his play on the court despite being just 27 years old, but he is still a highly productive and reliable player.

More importantly, retaining Serge Ibaka allows for Toronto to avoid losing their best defensive presence for a second straight year after Bismack Biyombo inked a four-year, $72 million deal last offseason with the Orlando Magic.

With Ibaka seemingly in place, Kyle Lowry is the next big focal point for the Raptors.
[Image by Carlos Osorio/AP]

This new deal would keep Serge Ibaka under contract through his prime years on what could be a reasonable contract under the new CBA that should see many players ink deals with a base salary worth north of $30 million.

That said, the larger question that remains is if Lowry will re-sign with the team in free agency. He made subtle hints over this past season that he will test the market before making his decision but did leave the door open to coming back to the Raptors if he is presented with a max deal that could be five years worth up to $201 million.

There are several factors for Toronto to weigh in regard to Lowry given that he is 31 years old and a new deal would pay him more than $45 million for the final year when he is 36. This is something that the front office will have to give serious thought to as they could be locked into a player that is way past his best years with the strong possibility of no teams looking to acquire Lowry due to his massive contract.

It’s clear that there are many possibilities that loom ahead for the Raptors that could have a tremendous impact on the future of the organization. However, the return of Serge Ibaka could be a big step forward in securing that the team at least remains a fixture in the playoffs.

[Featured Image by Nick Wass/AP Images]