Serge Ibaka will have a lot more responsibility with the Orlando Magic than he had with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and GM Sam Presti probably wouldn’t have traded the big man if he knew that Kevin Durant would bolt for the Golden State Warriors.
Ibaka understands that his role will be quite different for the Magic, but he is intrigued by the test that it represents.
“It feels good,” he said in his first press conference with Orlando. “I feel like my first year in the league; I’m that excited. I’m looking forward to the new challenge. I know it’s not going to be easier. That’s how we become great when we beat the challenges in front of you.”
Ibaka only averaged 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game this past season; however, he was asked to do a lot more. He spotted up in the corner for 3-pointers quite often, and he defended wings and guards on the other end of the floor. This decreased his opportunities for blocked shots. Steven Adams‘ emergence as a pick-and-roll player didn’t increase Ibaka’s production, and it should be fun to watch what he is capable of in Orlando. Their first order of business should be finding a point guard, but there is plenty of time for them to do that this summer.
Ibaka has lived an incredibly tough life, and his adjustment period in Orlando should be quite short. They will make the playoffs next season with him leading the way. They will also be one of the best defensive teams in the Eastern Conference as a result of him swatting shots in the middle. It helps that the Magic just signed Bismack Biyombo to a contract as well. This could mean that Jonas Valanciunas will be traded before the season begins, because Orlando is claiming that Biyombo will be a starter.
Serge and Bismack are both from the Congo originally, and this will enable both players to feel comfortable right away. This trade was the best thing for Ibaka’s development as a player. He’ll be a focal point on offense, and he’ll be expected to score from the post and 3-point line. The bottom line is that Ibaka will improve by leaps and bounds after being traded to the Magic, and he should thank Presti for dealing him before Durant’s free agency bombshell.