Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka knows he has it good here in Canada.
During an Instagram live chat on Wednesday, Ibaka was asked outright about his free agency plans following the postponed 2019-20 season. The 30-year-old’s answer was straight to the point, and exactly what Raptors fans wanted to hear.
“I’m gonna stay bro. This place is beautiful,” Ibaka said. “It’s a beautiful city, beautiful people here, and we have one of the best teams, so why leave? Go where?”
Ibaka is in the last year of a three-year, $64-million deal that he signed in 2017 after arriving in Toronto via trade from Orlando, and he is fully deserving of another significant contract. He’s averaging career-highs in scoring and rebounding in his 11th season, and has shown no signs of decline into his older years.
If anything, Ibaka is a better and more polished player in his thirties, as compared to when he first joined the Raptors in 2017. Ibaka has successfully transitioned his game from being a power forward to becoming a center, and he made tangible improvements in his finishing around the basket and with his reading of the game to improve as a scorer.
Ibaka has also proven capable of starting despite spending most of his time as a reserve following the arrival of Marc Gasol. In 27 starts this season, Ibaka is averaging 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds on 55 percent shooting overall and 44 percent from deep. Given that the Raptors have no viable starting prospects at center (Chris Boucher and Dewan Hernandez are both undersized, and frankly too raw, to anchor a playoff-calibre team) it makes sense on every level to retain Ibaka.
The Raptors have plenty of cap room to retain Ibaka, but there are other considerations at hand. First, Ibaka isn’t the only major free agent to consider, as Fred VanVleet and Gasol are also due for new deals. Second, with COVID-19 putting the global economy into a shutdown, there is significant uncertainty around the financials of every team in the NBA moving forward.
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