Head coach Nick Nurse decreased his role a bit in the playoffs, when teams are often relying on smaller lineups. Ibaka remained effective, though. He averaged 16.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, according to Basketball Reference, during the team's title run.
Many thought the Raptors would take a step backward in 2020-21 after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Instead, they finished with the second-best record (53-19) in the Eastern Conference.
Ibaka's performance was one reason the reigning champs didn't suffer a hangover in their repeat bid. He averaged 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. He also knocked down 38.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
Given how well he has performed in his brief time north of the border, the Raptors probably would've re-signed Ibaka in their perfect world. They may have gone into the offseason with a firm ceiling on how much they'd be willing to pay him, though.
President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has the opportunity to significantly reshape the roster in the years ahead.
Here's the list of players the Raptors have under contract for the 2021-22 season:
- Pascal Siakam
- Norman Powell (player option)
- Dewan Hernandez
- Matt Thomas
OG Anunoby and Terence Davis are also restricted free agents.
If Ujiri wants to pursue a marquee free agent in 2021—Giannis Antetokounmpo for instance—he'll have the salary-cap space to do so. Especially with the franchise having captured a championship to lessen the need to win now, maintaining a level of financial flexibility for the future might be Ujiri's top priority.
Toronto will have to do this all over again next offseason, when Kyle Lowry is an unrestricted free agent. As much as Lowry has meant to the franchise, Ujiri could leave sentiment at the door to surround Siakam with as strong a supporting cast as possible.
The Raptors' loss is the Clippers' gain.
Ibaka's skill set makes him the ideal center for today's NBA. He can space the floor and score inside on offense. On defense, he held opposing shooters to 51.5 percent inside six feet, per NBA.com.
Centers generally aren't valued now as much as they were in previous generations, but a 7-footer who can protect the rim and stretch the floor is a prized commodity nonetheless.