Sports

The reeling Raptors finally get their man in Serge Ibaka

The reeling Raptors finally get their man in Serge Ibakaā€¯

In his first year in Orlando after playing his first seven seasons with the Thunder, Ibaka has had the highest usage percentage of his career for the Magic, a putrid offensive team. Beyond that, he has steadily kept the ship moving forward, once it was clear the Raptors were surprisingly turning themselves into an Eastern Conference threat.

Now Ibaka will slide between DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas in the Raptors frontcourt, a significant upgrade for Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, who has always been a fan of Ibaka's defensive tenacity and ability to stretch the floor on offence. The move instantly fortifies the Raptors for a run at the Cavs, and at the same time helps solve Orlando's logjam of post players. Ross is in the second season of a three-year, $30-million contact. The Magic were reportedly hoping to wait until closer to the February 23 deadline to make an actual deal while waiting for the price to come to where they liked it, but the Raptors clearly made a push for action earlier, and the timing really couldn't be better.

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The Raptors are scheduled to face the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday night and return to Toronto to play the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.

Ujiri has been looking for a power forward to fit into Toronto's starting lineup alongside Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas for some time now - and has been targeting Ibaka specifically.

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Ross is 25 years old, averaging 10.4 points off the bench this season, and is under contract through 2019.

The athletic Ibaka should be a big boost to Toronto's front court after the Raptors lost Bismack Biyombo to Orlando in free agency last summer. "Toronto owns two first-round picks in the draft - including the Clippers' pick - and will send Orlando the lesser in value of the two choices, league sources said". His per 36 minutes scoring average is 16.7 points, a great improvement over what has come to be expected of him, and Ross should also help take some of the pressure off of shooting guard and Magic leading scorer Evan Fournier. Doing so without giving up any real assets is better. He also turns 31 over the summer and battled injury issues much of last season so finding a team who sees him on that contract as a positive will be hard.

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Ibaka has not played well in his two meetings against the Celtics this season, netting four and eight points.



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