The NBA saw another major deal go down today, when the Toronto Raptors sent wing Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic in exchange for power forward Serge Ibaka. As strong an acquisition as Ibaka is, Ross could wind up benefitting the most from heading to the Sunshine State
Now, the deal is an absolute winner for Toronto because the team desperately needs help at the power forward position. Rookie Pascal Siakam has averaged just 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds over 17 minutes per game. Veteran Patrick Patterson has fared slightly better in posting 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds, but has shot just 38.5% from the field. Jared Sullinger, whom GM Masai Ujiri inked to a one-year, $5.6 million deal last summer, has played in just 11 games and averaged only 10.7 minutes due to slow recovery from a knee injury.
Enter Ibaka, who posted 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for the Magic after being acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder during last year’s NBA Draft. He is 27 years old, can be a defensive force and is basically a rental for the Raptors. They will pay what remains of his $12.25 million salary, per Spotrac, and re-signing with the team could be in the cards depending on how he performs in games leading up to and during the postseason.
Ross, on the other hand, is the more interesting player in the deal. A former first-round pick out of Washington, the 26-year-old is perhaps best known for winning the 2013 Slam Dunk Contest in his rookie year. As a player under coach Dwane Casey the past couple of years, he has settled into a role as a bench shooter. Ross is averaging 10.4 points over 22.4 minutes per game this year and is shooting 37.5% from three-point range. That’s not at all bad considering his $10 million salary, which is an arguable bargain for a player of his type in a league with a rising salary cap
Ross can expect more opportunities in Orlando, despite the team currently ranking last in the Southeast Division. Aaron Gordon should shift from the wing to power forward with Ibaka gone and second-year man Mario Hezonja is not ready to be a starter. Ross certainly has the talent to provide some extra scoring from the wing if given extended minutes. His per 36 minutes scoring average is 16.7 points, a great improvement over what has come to be expected of him, and Ross should also help take some of the pressure off of shooting guard and Magic leading scorer Evan Fournier.
This is exactly why Magic GM Rob Hennigan is the true winner of the trade. He knew Ibaka was of no use to a last place team and instead sent him to a contender willing to pay a high price for his services. In exchange, Orlando now receives a first-round pick on top of the one it already possesses and a player under team control for the next two seasons at a bargain price. Ross’s current deal, signed in 2015, is worth $31.5 million over three years and took effect this season. He will earn $10.5 million over the last two years of the contract.