Serge Ibaka On Heat’s Radar

Potential trade candidate Serge Ibaka is on the Heat’s radar, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. It’s not clear how seriously Miami would consider pursuing Ibaka, or whether the Heat would have the assets to tempt their division rivals in Orlando. Nonetheless, Ibaka “intrigues” the Heat, per Jackson.

A longtime member of the Thunder, Ibaka was sent to Orlando this past summer after spending his first seven NBA seasons in Oklahoma City. Currently, Ibaka is averaging a career-high 15.2 PPG for the Magic, though he’s playing a different style of game than he did earlier in his career.

Ibaka’s 1.5 three-pointers per game and 38.5% conversion rate on long-distance attempts are career bests. Those numbers reflect the fact that he has developed an outside shot in recent years after barely attempting any three-pointers during his first few seasons. However, Ibaka’s rim-protection numbers have taken a hit as of late — he’s averaging fewer than two blocks per 36 minutes this season for the first time in his career.

Still, while he may not be the shot-blocker he was earlier in his career, Ibaka can provide solid defense and rebounding in addition to his expanded offensive game. The 27-year-old is on track for unrestricted free agency this summer, which will make him an interesting trade chip. Suitors may be reluctant to give up much for a player that could be a rental, but the Magic will likely be seeking a significant return after surrendering Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Ersan Ilyasova for Ibaka last summer.

While it remains to be seen whether the Heat could offer the Magic a package that would pique their interest, acquiring Ibaka would give the team a leg up on re-signing him this summer, since they’d hold his Bird rights. Even if Miami doesn’t make a move for Ibaka this month, he’ll likely remain a potential target for the franchise in free agency this offseason.

It’s also worth noting that today is the first day the Heat are eligible to pursue medical retirement for Chris Bosh, who has been out of action for a full year. Miami would have the opportunity to clear Bosh’s cap hits from the team’s salary cap, though reports have indicated that the club won’t necessarily move forward with that process right away.

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