After losing two key big men on the first day of NBA free agency, the LA Clippers bounced back Saturday.
Free agent Serge Ibaka plans to sign a two-year, $19 million deal with Clippers, a source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal will include a player option in the second year, the source said.
Ibaka is a critical acquisition for the Clippers, who lost Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green to their two biggest Western Conference competitors on the first day of free agency.
Harrell, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, stunned many by moving down the Staples Center hallway and agreeing to join the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on what agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports told Wojnarowski is a two-year deal worth approximately $19 million. And Green, a significant piece of the Clippers’ rotation, agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the Denver Nuggets, a league source confirmed to ESPN.
In dire need of a quality and versatile big man, the Clippers were able to engineer a reunion of Ibaka with Kawhi Leonard. The two friends helped the Toronto Raptors win the NBA championship in 2018-19. The 7-foot Ibaka gives the Clippers a stretch five who averaged a career-high 15.4 points to go with 8.2 rebounds and 38.5% 3-point shooting last season for the Raptors. Ibaka, 31, also provides the Clippers with some much-needed size and rim protection to go up against the likes of the Lakers’ Anthony Davis and the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic. Ibaka has averaged 2.1 blocks per game over his 12-year career.
The Clippers’ two biggest wins of free agency so far have been Ibaka and Marcus Morris Sr., who agreed to return on a four-year, $64 million deal, a source told Wojnarowski. The Clippers also agreed to terms Friday to bring back reserve big man Patrick Patterson, Excel Sports Management agent Sam Goldfeder told Wojnarowski.
After falling well short of championship expectations by blowing a 3-1 lead in the second round of the 2020 playoffs to the Nuggets, the Clippers will try to make another title run with considerable changes to the team around Leonard and Paul George. Ty Lue replaced Doc Rivers as coach with a revamped staff. And the Clippers will now have Ibaka joining Morris and Ivica Zubac in the frontcourt after losing their leading bench scorer in Harrell, who averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds. The Clippers also hope that the well-liked Ibaka can help improve the team’s chemistry.
The Clippers still can use another big man and potentially a point guard who can help alleviate the playmaking burden on Leonard and George.