Serge Ibaka

Raptors Re-Sign Serge Ibaka To Three-Year Deal

JULY 7: The Raptors have issued a press release formally confirming their new deal with Ibaka.Serge Ibaka vertical

“We are thrilled with the skills and intangibles Serge brings to our team,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “He is one of the top two-way power forwards in the NBA and his ability to stretch the floor is a valuable asset today’s game.”

JULY 2: The Raptors have reached an agreement on a new deal for Serge Ibaka, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. According to Wojnarowski, Ibaka has agreed to sign a three-year contract worth $65MM to remain in Toronto.

Ibaka, who will turn 28 in February, initially joined the Raptors in a trade deadline deal back in February, as the Magic sent him to Toronto in exchange for a package that featured Terrence Ross and a first-round pick. The veteran big man averaged 14.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 1.4 BPG with a .398 3PT% down the stretch for the Raptors, and there was a sense that the two sides wanted to continue the relationship beyond this year.

Ibaka is no longer the dominant rim protector that he was during his prime years in Oklahoma City, when he led the NBA in blocks in consecutive seasons. However, he has developed into a legitimate outside threat, setting new career bests in three-point percentage (39.1%) and threes per game (1.6) in 2016/17.

With Ibaka back in the fold, it seems likely that the Raptors will also lock up free agent point guard Kyle Lowry. Ibaka and Lowry share an agent in ASM’s Andy Miller, and while the duo isn’t necessarily viewed as a package deal this summer, it makes sense for Toronto to retain both, since the team won’t have the cap flexibility to sign a comparable replacement for Lowry if he leaves. The fact that the Raptors are reportedly discussing a Cory Joseph trade with Indiana also bodes well for Lowry’s return.

[RELATED UPDATE: Raptors to re-sign Kyle Lowry]

It remains to be seen how Ibaka’s new deal with the Raptors will affect incumbent center Jonas Valanciunas. The majority of Toronto’s most effective lineups late in the 2016/17 season had Ibaka playing center, and he seems to be a better fit at the five than the four. Valanciunas would be a pricey backup at $15MM+, and if Lowry gets a big payday, the Raptors will go over the tax line, so the young center could be on the trading block again.

As Zach Lowe of ESPN.com observes (via Twitter), re-signing Lowry to a deal near the max and trading Joseph wouldn’t get the Raptors below the tax threshold. Toronto is looking to move contracts, according to Lowe, who notes that Valanciunas is the most interesting trade chip to watch, since the Raps would have to attach an asset or two to DeMarre Carroll to move his deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Ibaka, Bogdanovic, Knicks

Addressing NBA-wide speculation that he’s older than his listed age of 27, Raptors free agent big man Serge Ibaka issued a statement expressing disappointment with the media for “prejudices” based on his origin. Within his written statement, Ibaka suggested that he needs to take a stand against the “false assumption” that has been circulating.

“I was born in the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville,” Ibaka wrote. “A city with a population bigger than 1 million. A city with hospitals, a civil registry, and an administration. I was born in a caring, loving and united family. I was not born in the jungle.”

Here’s more on free agency:

  • In addition to the Hawks, the Kings and Nuggets are among the teams showing legitimate interest in Wizards RFA sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic, tweets Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. Bogdanovic landing in Sacramento would be a fun scenario for play-by-play commentators, since the Kings have already reached a deal with Bogdan Bogdanovic.
  • Multiple agents who have been in touch with the Knicks get the impression that the team wants to add younger players and is reluctant to spend big money on a single free agent, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com. That could mean that New York’s reported interest in George Hill has waned.
  • As they explore the free agent market, the Pacers intend to target young players with upside who may not have reached their full potential with their previous teams, says Nate Taylor of The Indianapolis Star. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis fit that bill, according to Taylor, who hears from a source that Pacers president Kevin Pritchard has “coveted Oladipo for years.”
  • Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald lays out why the Celtics badly need to land Gordon Hayward this week. As Bulpett explains, Boston’s cap room will no longer be available next summer when new deals are due for Isaiah Thomas and perhaps Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley as well, meaning 2017 is likely the team’s last and best chance to land a top-tier free agent.

Raptors Remain Confident About Retaining Lowry, Ibaka

The Raptors remain confident about their chances of bringing back top free agents Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet (via Twitter).

Lowry and Ibaka share an agent in ASM’s Andy Miller, and Miller met with the Raptors “late into the night” on Saturday morning after the free agent period opened, according to David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link). While neither Lowry or Ibaka agreed to a deal following those meetings, the two sides remain in contact.

If the Raptors do lock up both Lowry and Ibaka to market-value deals, the team figures to go into luxury-tax territory for the first time. That could potentially be avoided by moving another player on a sizable contract – such as DeMarre Carroll or Jonas Valanciunas – but Toronto will likely wait on decisions from Lowry and Ibaka before considering how to address the rest of its roster.

The odds of the Raptors re-signing P.J. Tucker may not be quite as high, as the club is facing “competition” on the veteran forward, according to Grange. The Kings are said to be meeting with Tucker today, while the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Sixers, and Clippers have also been linked to him.

Eastern FA Rumors: Bulls, Teodosic, Nets, Raptors

The Nets were considered the frontrunners in the Milos Teodosic sweepstakes for much of the year, but point guard became less of a priority for the team after last week’s D’Angelo Russell, opening the door for another NBA team to make a play for Teodosic. According to Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune (via Twitter), that team may be Chicago — Jones has heard the Bulls are “close” to reaching a deal with the EuroLeague star.

If the Bulls end up finalizing a deal with Teodosic, he would be the team’s third major point guard addition of 2017. Chicago also acquired Cameron Payne in a trade with Oklahoma City at the deadline, and landed Kris Dunn from Minnesota in last week’s Jimmy Butler blockbuster.

Here are a few more free agency rumors from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Wizards and Pistons are bracing for the Nets to make a strong push on restricted free agents Otto Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, respectively, tweets ESPN’s Marc Stein. Although those players have somewhat similar skill-sets, the Nets aren’t focused on filling a specific need or position in free agency, as head coach Kenny Atkinson tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • The Raptors‘ brass will likely meet with agent Andy Miller in Orlando this weekend, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Miller represents both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, Toronto’s top two free agents, who figure to be a part of those meetings as well.
  • Rudy Gay has been linked to the Heat in the past, but Miami isn’t currently among the teams to arrange a free agent meeting with him this weekend, a source tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • Asked if the Knicks were still be seeking free agents who fit into a specific system, head coach Jeff Hornacek suggested this week that the team’s focus will be more on talent than system fit, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com. That sounds like good news for free agents who weren’t fond on Phil Jackson‘s triangle.

Lowe’s Latest: George, Hayward, Ibaka, Gallinari

A proposed scenario that would see the Celtics sign Gordon Hayward, trade for Paul George, and sign George to a contract extension isn’t realistic, writes Zach Lowe in his latest report for ESPN.com. As Lowe points out, there would be no reason for George to re-up with Boston right away in that scenario unless he could renegotiate a maximum salary, and it would be extremely difficult for the C’s to accommodate such a deal without moving Al Horford.

Knowing that if they acquire George, he could be a rental, the Celtics have thus far been unwilling to include Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, or the Lakers’ 2018 first-rounder in any of their offers to Indiana, Lowe reports. Lowe’s best guess at Boston’s offer is a package that would include Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and one of the team’s other first-round picks. The C’s will be reluctant to go much higher than that, given their fear that George could leave in 2018 — Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times wrote on Thursday night that the Pacers forward is still telling friends he expects to be a Laker in 2018.

While George could just be a one-year rental, the Celtics have competition for him. According to Lowe, the Wizards would likely be willing to sign-and-trade Otto Porter and include a first-round pick. The Cavaliers would swap Kevin Love straight up, though that doesn’t interest Indiana much, per Lowe. If the Nuggets get involved again via three-way talks for George and Love, they could offer Gary Harris and a first-round pick, though NBA execs expect Harris to command upwards of $20MM annually on his next contract, which is due soon, says Lowe.

Here’s more from Lowe with the free agent period right around the corner:

  • Lowe views Hayward as less than a 50-50 bet to stay with the Jazz, with both the Celtics and Heat as legitimate suitors. The ESPN scribe adds that he wouldn’t be surprised if a mystery fourth team ends up getting a meeting with Hayward.
  • The market for Raptors big man Serge Ibaka and Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari is expected to be in about the $20MM-per-year range, sources tell Lowe.
  • The Sixers have told player agents that they plan on signing one-year contracts in free agency this summer to preserve future cap space. They may also use some of their current cap room to sign Robert Covington to a renegotiated extension, writes Lowe.
  • Lowe expects the Bucks to sign Tony Snell to a deal in the range of $10-12MM annually.
  • Despite drafting De’Aaron Fox, the Kings may still spend on a free agent point guard as a veteran mentor, particularly if they decide they want to chase a playoff spot right away, says Lowe.
  • The Grizzlies are “crossing their fingers” that the market for RFA power forward JaMychal Green isn’t as competitive as expected, according to Lowe.

Lowe’s Latest: Butler, Nuggets, Wolves, Ibaka

Before they accepted the Timberwolves‘ offer for Jimmy Butler, the Bulls canvassed the league in search of a more appealing offer, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com.

Lowe writes in his latest piece for ESPN that the Bulls spoke to the Suns about a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 overall pick, but the two sides never really got close. Chicago also had discussions with the Nuggets and Celtics, but Denver drew the line at including Jamal Murray in any potential deal, and Boston wouldn’t include the No. 3 pick, according to Lowe.

As Lowe notes, teams like the Suns and Nuggets had to consider the fact that Butler may not have re-signed with them in free agency in 2019 if they acquired him. Although Butler’s contract would give teams an extra year of control over someone like Paul George, the star forward might still have ultimately been a rental if he didn’t love where he ended up. That cooled the market somewhat, as the Bulls explored potential trade scenarios.

Here’s more from Lowe’s latest piece:

  • The Bulls were never entirely comfortable with the idea of Butler as their foundational player, says Lowe. A source tells ESPN that Butler’s bristling at Fred Hoiberg‘s instructions made some people on the team uncomfortable. Lowe suggests that Hoiberg’s calm personality wasn’t a good match for Butler, who requires a coach more like Tom Thibodeau.
  • At one point, the Timberwolves were intrigued by the possibility of pursuing Serge Ibaka in free agency, but their interest “has faded a bit,” according to Lowe, who adds that most teams expect Ibaka to re-sign with the Raptors.
  • The Lakers were dangling a future unprotected first-round pick to teams with cap room recently in an effort to move the Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng contracts, per Lowe. The earliest first-round pick the Lakers could trade at this point is 2020’s selection, so it’s understandable that D’Angelo Russell appealed more to the Nets than a pick that far down the road.

Trade Rumors: Butler, Bledsoe, Hawks, Cavs

While the Bulls still aren’t close to moving Jimmy Butler, there appears to be more “organizational alignment” than there was last year on the idea that a rebuild is in the team’s best interest, reports K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Chicago’s asking price for Butler hasn’t changed, according to Johnson, who says the team would be seeking starters or rotation players, along with multiple high draft picks.

Since the Bulls would like to land a high pick in Thursday’s draft if they move Butler, the Celtics (No. 3), Suns (No. 4), and Timberwolves (No. 7) would make sense as trade partners. However, as Johnson details, the Bulls have received the impression that Boston plans to use the third overall pick, and Minnesota’s seventh overall pick likely wouldn’t put Chicago in position to nab one of the top prospects they like, such as De’Aaron Fox or Josh Jackson.

Here are more trade rumors from around the league, including notes on Chicago’s other potential trade partner, the Suns:

  • The Suns have explored the possibility of trading their No. 4 overall pick in a deal for a star, having looked into players like Butler, Paul George, and Kristaps Porzingis, Adrian Wojnarowski noted during The Vertical’s live show on Wednesday night. Sources tell K.C. Johnson that Phoenix is also looking to include Eric Bledsoe, who has two years left on his contract, in any major trade package.
  • On The Vertical’s live show, Wojnarowski identified the Hawks as a team to watch on the trade market, suggesting that new GM Travis Schlenk may be looking to cut costs as he retools the roster. Kent Bazemore could be a trade candidate in Atlanta, per Wojnarowski.
  • Even without a GM in place, the Cavaliers continued to work “furiously” on Wednesday pursuing trade possibilities, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. It appears the Cavs and Chauncey Billups are close to reach an agreement that would add him to their front office, but the team is more focused on working the trade market, and will continue trying to find a deal on Thursday.
  • Within a larger piece about the draft, Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun suggests the Raptors are confident about their chances to re-sign Serge Ibaka in free agency, which could make Jonas Valanciunas expendable in the right deal.

Ujiri: Not Realistic For Raptors To Re-Sign All FAs

Speaking to local reporters today at his end-of-season press conference, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri admitted that it’s not “realistic” for the team to retain all four of its key free agents this offseason (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050). In addition to Kyle Lowry, who confirmed on Monday that he’ll opt out of his contract, veteran Raptors forwards Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson are all eligible for free agency this offseason.

That admission from Ujiri isn’t surprising. Lowry appears to be in line for a max deal or something close to it, and Ibaka will get a big payday as well. Tucker and Patterson figure to land more reasonable deals, but they’ve positioned themselves for raises of their own. Add it all together, and the Raptors would be going way into tax territory to retain a roster of players who were bounced in the second round of this year’s playoffs.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders examined the Raptors’ free agency situation earlier today, suggesting that Tucker and Patterson may be the odd men out, despite the fact that Toronto would – in theory – like to re-sign them both. According to Kyler, the framework for a multiyear deal for Ibaka that starts around $20MM is “basically done,” though nothing is finalized yet and rival suitors could still attempt to pry away the big man.

Meanwhile, even though Ujiri didn’t sound optimistic about bringing back all the Raptors’ free agents, he had plenty of praise for Lowry, calling the veteran point guard “a huge part of our success here” and asserting that “we want him back” (Twitter link via Eric Koreen of The Athletic).

Ujiri also weighed in on several other subjects during his presser, so let’s dive in and round up some highlights…

  • The Raptors’ performance against the Cavaliers was eye-opening, according to Ujiri, who suggested that the franchise may need a bit of a “culture reset” (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic). Ujiri also acknowledged that the question of how to evolve from a “good” team to an “elite” team will be at the forefront for him this summer (Twitter link via Koreen).
  • One of Ujiri’s primary talking points today revolved around his desire to evaluate and re-think the Raptors’ style of play. The Raps president said he has told head coach Dwane Casey the team may need to change its approach on the court, rather than continuing to change its players (Twitter links via Lewenberg). Ujiri also hammered home the need to keep thinking progressively rather than getting stagnant. “We’ve tried what we’ve done so many times and it hasn’t worked. That’s the simple answer.” Ujiri said. “It’s easy to defend one-on-one” (Twitter links via Murphy).
  • While Ujiri’s comments on the Raptors’ style of play weren’t necessarily a direct indictment of the club’s head coach, Lewenberg left the presser feeling that Casey’s job may be in jeopardy (Twitter link).
  • Ujiri said today that team ownership is fully on board with whatever direction he and the front office choose to go, whether that means going into the tax, rebuilding, or something in between (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • Although he didn’t want to use it as an excuse, Ujiri acknowledged that the Raptors – having acquired Ibaka and Tucker at the deadline – didn’t spend a lot of time together in their current form, which makes it tricky to evaluate how all the players fit together (Twitter link via Murphy).
  • Asked whether the Raptors need more from their small forward spot, Ujiri said they do, but expressed optimism that DeMarre Carroll, who has never really been fully healthy since arriving in Toronto, will have a big summer (Twitter link via Murphy).

Raptors Rumors: Ujiri, DeRozan, Tucker, Ibaka

The easiest way for Raptors GM Masai Ujiri to make a significant change is to fire coach Dwane Casey, Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated opines. Ujiri is in a position to rebuild the roster in the wake of the Cavaliers’ playoff sweep but his track record suggests he won’t take that approach, Golliver continues. In a best-case scenario, Ujiri will trade underperforming forward DeMarre Carroll and guard Cory Joseph while retaining his best perimeter defender, unrestricted free agent P.J. Tucker, Golliver adds.

In other developments regarding the Raptors:

  • With point guard Kyle Lowry and forwards Serge Ibaka and Patrick Patterson also heading into unrestricted free agency this summer, the club faces an uncertain future, as Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun details.
  • Backcourt partner DeMar DeRozan throws his full support behind Lowry and his decision to opt out, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet tweets. “I don’t want to hinder him or make anything more hectic than it’s going to be,” DeRozan told Grange.
  • DeRozan wants the team to acquire more shooters to complement his talents, Wolstat tweets.
  • Tucker will wait to see if Lowry remains with the club before he decides whether to return, Wolstat reports in another tweet. Tucker wants to play for a contender, Wolstat adds. Ibaka’s decision will be influenced by his daughter, he told Wolstat (Twitter link).
  • Casey says it “would be difficult” for the team to advance deeper in future playoffs without re-signing Lowry, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets.

Raptors Notes: Offseason Options, Rebuild

After suffering a humbling sweep at the hands of the reigning champion Cavaliers, the Raptors are in limbo heading into the offseason, Zach Lowe of ESPN writes. In front of them are several options ranging from full on teardown to attempted recovery.

One of the options Lowe lays out is letting Kyle Lowry sign elsewhere lest the Raptors get bogged down in a five-year, $200MM contract. If that happens, Lowe posits that there isn’t much point bringing Serge Ibaka back either.

Ultimately, he continues, it would only make sense to trade DeMar DeRozan as well and fully embrace a tank.

That said, the scribe notes that the franchise could choose to bite the bullet and sign Lowry to a lofty five-year deal and then let Ibaka walk with the intention of replacing him with cheaper, shorter term players.

At the end of the day, Lowe argues that retaining the current core in its entirety would put the club well over the luxury tax threshold, the only problem being that their on-court performance doesn’t necessarily warrant it.

Regardless of the path team president Masai Ujiri chooses to pursue, he’s built up enough goodwill and ownership trust to see it through.

There’s more from the Raptors:

  • In the same piece, Lowe wonders if making a coaching change and letting Dwane Casey go could help “unstick” Toronto’s notoriously disappointing postseason offense.
  • Amid talk of an uncertain summer, DeRozan said that tearing everything down would be difficult. “It’s hard to break down a team that won 50-plus games two years in a row,” he told the media, including Josh Lewenberg of TSN.
  • The Raptors were headed toward a full on rebuild before a late-season surge following the trade that sent Rudy Gay to the Kings in 2014 boosted them into Eastern Conference contention, Scott Stinson writes for the National Post.
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