NBA

The Toronto Raptors Could Lose Their $65 Million Star to the LA Lakers

Since 2017, NBA veteran Serge Ibaka has played for the Toronto Raptors. Ibaka has played a key role during his time with the Raptors. In 2019, he was a part of history as the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to win their first title.

Throughout his career, Ibaka has excelled on the defensive side. His time in Toronto may soon come to an end, and one team that could make a push to acquire him is the reigning NBA champions, the LA Lakers.

A look at Serge Ibaka’s career before joining the Raptors

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The Seattle Supersonics selected Ibaka in the first round of the 2008 NBA draft. He became the first player from the Republic of Congo to be selected in the draft. When the team re-branded and became the Oklahoma City Thunder, Ibaka stayed in Europe to play overseas. The Thunder signed him to a two-year contract in 2009. Ibaka made his NBA debut during the 2009-10 season and averaged 6.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game coming off the bench.

During his time with the Thunder, he became a prominent role player. In his third season, he became a starter and led the league in blocks with 3.7 per game. He also led the league in blocks the next year with three per game. The Thunder advanced to the 2012 NBA Finals and took on the Miami Heat. Ibaka played a significant role for the Thunder during the finals. The Heat defeated the Thunder that year, but OKC was gearing up for another return.

Ibaka was a three-time All-Defensive team selection from 2012 to 2014 during his time with the Thunder. In June of 2016, the Raptors traded Ibaka to the Orlando Magic. Ibaka spent most of the 2016-17 season playing for the Magic, and he averaged 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds as a starter. The Magic traded Ibaka to the Raptors in February of 2017.

Ibaka playing his role with the Toronto Raptors

Ibaka ended the 2016-17 season with the Raptors, and he averaged 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds starting in 23 games. The Raptors finally made it to the NBA Finals during the 2018-2019 season when they added NBA star, Kawhi Leonard. That season, Ibaka averaged 15 points and 8.1 rebounds starting in 51 games during the regular season. 

During the 2019 NBA Playoffs, Ibaka came off the bench and provided the team’s energy from the second unit. It didn’t matter if he was starting or not; Ibaka wanted to get out on the court and help his team any way he could. He could finally call himself an NBA champion after the Raptors defeated the Warriors.

Could Ibaka become a Laker during the upcoming season?

In 2017, the Raptors signed Ibaka to a three-year deal worth $65 million. He put together an impressive season in 2020 as he averaged a career-high in points with 15.4 per game. The Raptors definitely could use his presence on the court in the future, but with his contract being up, that’s all up for question.

With the Lakers coming off a championship, they are looking to win more, and they are looking to add some players. In an article from Yahoo Sports, Sean Deveney of Heavy.com talks about how Ibaka could possibly join the Lakers.

“From a personnel standpoint, he is exactly the kind of combo big guy that team (the Lakers) needs,” one NBA general manager told Heavy.com. “They have had interest in him before and they will again.” According to Yahoo Sports, the Lakers will have $9.3 million to spend on a player like Ibaka. If Ibaka wants to compete for another title and take less money, joining the Lakers would be an idea he probably would have in the back of his mind.