Prior to the opening of 2020 free agency, Serge Ibaka tweeted a picture of himself in a plane with the caption: "On my way to ..." It was a clear tease from one of the more coveted big men on the market. On Saturday night, Ibaka landed, signing a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. The terms of the deal, as first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, are two years, $19 million, which amounts to the Clippers' mid-level exception.
Since the start of free agency, the Clippers have swapped Landry Shamet, who was traded to Brooklyn, for Luke Kennard and Montrezl Harrell, who signed with the Lakers, for Ibaka.
To me, the Clippers came out on top of both those deals. Kennard is a sharpshooter like Shamet and much better with the ball than you probably realize after he spent his first three NBA seasons in Pistons purgatory. Last year he averaged over 15 points a game. He's a career 40-percent 3-point shooter.
Ibaka, meanwhile, makes the Clippers a more versatile team on both ends. He's not the energy player Harrell is, but he's not the defensive liability, either, and he remains a dangerous shooter. In fact, given that he shot 39 percent from thee last season, the Clippers can now spread the floor with five players on the perimeter without compromising rim protection.
I would expect Ibaka to come off the bench, with Ivica Zubac retaining his starting role, but Ibaka is going to be the finisher in most situations. He can just do more things, and if the Clippers need to, they can also go with two-big lineups.
In a previous move, the Clippers re-signed Marcus Morris on a four-year, $64 million deal, which is awfully high even for a guy who provided great benefit to them as a shooter, individual scorer and competitive defender with size, but they had to do that once they lost JaMychal Green to the Nuggets. Morris became a necessary commodity as precisely the right time, and he got paid.
So here we go with the Clippers, who find themselves in arguably the most urgent predicament of any team in the league. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are free agents next summer. They just collapsed in the second round, blowing a 3-1 lead vs. the Nuggets to get an early ticket home from the bubble. There is no future for the Clippers. It's all about right now. And Serge Ibaka helps them a great deal.