Magic Trade Serge Ibaka to Raptors for Terrence Ross and 2017 First Round Pick
By John Denton
Feb. 14, 2017
ORLANDO – Looking to protect themselves against a potential loss in free agency and bolster both their 3-point shooting and chemistry, the Orlando Magic acquired Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick and traded Serge Ibaka to Toronto.
The deal became official on Tuesday afternoon following a trade call between the Magic, Raptors and the NBA. Ross, 26, must pass a physical before he can play with the Magic, but there is an outside chance he could be in uniform on Wednesday night when the Magic (21-36) host the San Antonio Spurs (42-13) at the Amway Center.
``For us this deal made sense for a couple of different reasons. As we’ve watched our team play, clearly, something’s amiss and we’re all frustrated by how our team has performed,’’ Magic GM Rob Hennigan said. ``We felt like it was necessary to shake things up somehow, some way and we’ve been active in our discussions on the trade market. When this opportunity came to the forefront, we felt like it helps our team and it was worth doing.’’
In Ross, the Magic get a highly efficient 3-point shooter who is contractually signed through the 2018-19 season. The fifth-year guard has averaged 10.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 54 games this season for Toronto. This season, he’s scored in double digits 27 times and he’s accounted for 20-or-more points five times, including a season-best 25 points on Dec. 12 in Milwaukee.
``As you watch our team to play, it’s no secret that we sometimes struggle to make shots and I think (Ross’) ability to do just that intrigues us. His age, his contract are all things that we feel are positives and strengths for us. As Terrence gets situated here, his ability to stretch the floor and his ability to score will help our team.’’
Hennigan said the Magic’s poor play for much of the season was more the reason for the transaction than a concern that Ibaka would sign elsewhere in free agency.
Ross, the No. 8 pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, scored a career-best 51 points by making 16 of 29 shots, 10 of 17 3-pointers and nine of 10 free throws on Jan. 26, 2014. Other career achievements for Ross came from him using his breathtaking athleticism and explosiveness off the floor to win the 2013 NBA Slam Dunk title and the 2014 team dunk title along with Paul George and John Wall.
``Obviously, the guy is an athlete and he’s a terrific shooter,’’ Magic guard Evan Fournier said on Tuesday. ``I think his career high is 51, so when the guy gets hot, he gets really hot. He’s been on a winning team for a few years now and he has that big-game experience. So he brings a lot.’’
Orlando acquired Ibaka on draft night last June, knowing that the shot-swatting power forward could be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 of this year. The Magic paid a hefty price for Ibaka, sending Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and first-round pick Domantas Sabonis to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the power forward. In essence, the Magic chose Fournier – signed to a five-year contract extension last summer – over Oladipo because of the dramatic difference in the efficiency of their play. And they hoped that Ibaka – an All-Defense pick three times earlier in his career – would be a dramatic difference-maker – something that clearly hasn’t materialized.
``It was a calculated risk and with where we’re positioned, we’ll continue to make calculated risks if they address needs and push the team forward,’’ Hennigan said. ``If you go back in time (to last summer) and you look at what was needed in the frontcourt and some of the things we needed with the voids we had on the roster, and balance that with the logjam at (shooting guard) with Evan and Victor, we felt it made sense. … I applaud our aggressiveness and I think given the same situation circumstantially we’d make the same trade. Sometimes things don’t work out as you planned and it’s important to be proactive in trying to rectify it once you realize it’s not working.
``I think you can never isolate one person and one skill set and say, `That’s the reason it’s not working,’’ Hennigan added. ``Clearly our defense has not been performing at the level that we hoped or – quite frankly – at the level we expected. So there are a few things that need to be rectified and I wouldn’t put it on Serge.’’
The Magic’s hope was that they could rotate big men Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo and Ibaka into their lineup this season and still hold up defensively against the growing NBA trend of ``small ball.’’ However, the Magic have too often been burned by teams that aligned three and four 3-point shooters around the arc and either shot over or drove past Orlando’s bigger lineups.
``It’s been a challenge because what the league has done over the last few years has been dramatic in terms of the style of play and the sophisticated offenses that you are seeing now,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said of his team’s struggles in trying to adapt to 3-point-heavy, ``small-ball’’ lineups. ``You see the offensive numbers just sky-rocketing league-wide. I don’t think anyone in the Eastern Conference has a defensive rating under 102 (points per 100 possessions). That just wasn’t that way a year or two years ago and it’s largely about the spread lineups that you are seeing.
``So it has been tough to play two bigs,’’ Vogel continued. ``That’s why we went to putting (Biyombo) solely as the back-up center.’’
Orlando took a gamble on the 27-year-old Ibaka, hoping that his shot-blocking and paint presence would dramatically improve their defense. While the 6-foot-10 Ibaka did block a team-best 1.61 shots a game this season, Orlando’s defense has sagged into the bottom-five in the NBA much of the past two months.
The Magic were correct in thinking that an increased role in their offense would help Ibaka’s scoring as he averaged a career-best 15.1 points while ranking second on the team in field goal percentage (48.8 percent) and second in 3-point percentage (38.8 percent).
Ibaka made seven of nine shots and had a 3-pointer and two free throws for 17 points in Orlando’s 116-107 defeat of the Miami Heat on Monday night. Ibaka’s work on the glass helped the Magic hold a 52-37 rebounding edge over the rival Heat. The win allowed the Magic to snap a four-game losing streak.
``Serge has been very helpful to our team and he’s been great,’’ said Biyombo, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Ibaka came out of the Republic of Congo. ``(Monday) night I thought he did a really good job on both ends of the floor.’’
On-court chemistry has been a problem all season for a Magic team that tried incorporating nine new players along with a new coaching staff led by Vogel. Too often, the Magic have had communication breakdowns on pick-and-roll plays and switch-outs onto open 3-point shooters – plays that have resulted in some wildly erratic play. Despite hopes that it would be back in the postseason, Orlando sits 5 ½ games out of the No. 8 seed largely because it has gone 50 days without winning consecutive games.
``We’re a struggling team – there’s no other way to say it,’’ Fournier said. ``It’s been a rough, rough season with so many ups and downs. Great wins and terrible losses that don’t really make sense because we have the potential to be good. But, again, we have to be consistent. You can’t explain why you win in San Antonio by double digits, but lose at home to Phoenix. It just doesn’t make sense.’’
Ross, a 6-foot-7, 195-pounder, gives the Magic more positional versatility as he can play either shooting guard or small forward. He was mostly buried behind all-stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in Toronto, but in Orlando he will be given every chance to play big minutes because of the team’s need to improve its 3-point shooting.
``He is a good player and I like him as a person,’’ said Biyombo, who played with Ross last season in Toronto. ``There are a lot of positives, I can tell you that. I like him. I had a chance to compete with him and play with him, and it was great.’’
In 363 NBA games (132 starts), Ross has averaged 9.5 points and 2.6 rebounds a game while shooting 37.6 percent from 3-point range. In 31 playoff games, Ross has averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds.
Ross, who played two years of college basketball at the University of Washington prior to turning pro, is shooting a career-best 44.1 percent from the floor this season while knocking down 37.5 percent of his 3-point shots. He has made at least one 3-pointer in 42 games this season and he’s drilled at least three in a game 16 times.
The Magic got a close look at Ross’ abilities when the teams played three times this season – two of which resulted in Orlando victories. In those three games against the Magic, Ross averaged 13.3 points and 1.3 steals while making 11 of 21 3-pointers. In 80 minutes against the Magic this season, Ross is a plus-47 – meaning his five-player grouping outscored the opposition by 47 points while he was on the floor.
``It had to do with surveying the marketplace and doing something that we felt was sensible for us and connected for the future,’’ Hennigan said of the timing of the trade. ``We wanted to try and address needs somehow and someway and we’ve started to do that with this move, with the shooting and scoring that we acquire in Terrence. And the first-round pick was important for us to re-coup and it gives us a pick to have in a very strong draft. It gives us another chip to utilize to continue to build the team and improve the team.’’
The Raptors are scheduled to face the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday night and return to Toronto to play the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. Orlando’s final game before the All-Star break comes on Wednesday and it doesn’t play again until Feb. 23 when it hosts the Portland Trail Blazers.
Hennigan said the Magic could potentially make more moves prior to next Thursday’s trade deadline. And the GM is still hopeful that the Magic can put together a run to get back into the playoff chase.
``The goal is make the playoffs. That’s been our goal and that remains our goal,’’ he said.
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