For the second NBA off-season in a row, the Raptors have lost a player they wanted to keep to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Congolese-Spanish player, Serge Ibaka has decided to join the Clippers – the same team that wrested Kawhi Leonard away from Toronto in 2019 – on a two-year, $19-million US contract. The deal also includes a player option in the second season.
Ibaka, who had his best NBA season in 2019-20, averaging 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, had been weighing offers from Toronto, Brooklyn, and the Clippers.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 22, 2020
The Raptors were loathe to extend a deal past the coming season, preferring to keep salary-cap space open for a bumper crop of 2021 free agents. They could have paid Ibaka any amount they wanted on a one-year deal but he decided to take a longer-term contract from Los Angeles.
The move will leave Ujiri and Webster scrambling to find a starting-caliber centre for a roster anchored by VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Norm Powell.
Marc Gasol, another of Toronto’s free agents, remains a viable option but it’s unlikely the Raptors will deviate from their plan to fill the spot short-term and have more money to spend after next season.