A lot of people wanted the Toronto Raptors to trade for Serge Ibaka.
It made sense. Players of that caliber rarely hit the market, and the 26-year-old stands not only as an upgrade at the power forward position, but as a strong theoretical fit next to starting center Jonas Valanciunas. The trouble with paying a hefty price for Ibaka was not so much that his performance dropped off some last year – that’s part of it, but there’s evidence he could bounce back if used differently – but that he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer and will be looking to cash in. (He also shares an agent with Kyle Lowry, which could be both a positive and a negative in that situation.)
In any case, the Raptors didn’t end up prying Ibaka from Oklahoma City. Instead, the Thunder sent Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for the No. 11 pick (Domantas Sabonis), Victor Oladipo, and Ersan Ilyasova, a pretty nice return.
Could the Raptors have topped it? Maybe, but the asking price was borderline absurd. Michael Grange of Sportsnet confirms the details:
The Raptors’ primary vacancy is at power forward and as their efforts to land Serge Ibaka in a trade indicated, they have ambitions about how to fill it.
In the end the Raptors balked at sending Cory Joseph, Norman Powell, Patrick Patterson and their No. 9 pick to Oklahoma City for Ibaka. Ujiri wants to add to his talent base, not create a new weakness (bench strength), which is why he stood still at the trade deadline too.
At his post-draft media availability, general manager Masai Ujiri said the team wouldn’t “have a toy gun held to our head.” It seems like that offer may have been what he was referring to, with the Thunder finding a deal they liked and then making calls to see if anyone would unexpectedly top that king’s ransom. Even if there were assurances that Ujiri could re-sign Ibaka – and don’t think he won’t be on their targets list in the summer of 2017 – that’s quite a price to pay.
Would you have given up an under-market point guard, one seriously discounted year of a starting-caliber power forward, maybe the team’s most exciting prospect, and a top-10 pick for Ibaka? Probably not, right? This serves as a reminder that inactivity, whether at the draft or trade deadline, isn’t necessarily for a lack of trying. Maybe the best deal is often to not make a deal.
Grange also notes that the Raptors’ brass will be in L.A. on or around July 1 to lock down DeMar DeRozan quickly, lining up with earlier reports. (He also speculates the two sides may land on a number less than the max, which is encouraging.)