Not everyone around the Orlando Magic is in love with their addition of Serge Ibaka. However, trading for him has undoubtedly turned them, on paper at least, into a much better defensive team, maybe even good enough to make the playoffs.
It’s been awhile since the Magic have tasted postseason basketball, four seasons gone by. They hired Frank Vogel, who knows defense. They decided pairing Nikola Vucevic up with a defense-oriented big man is the next step towards ending their rebuilding phase, and starting to contend. But sending away Victor Oladipo along with others for a player who becomes a free agent at the end of the season and might be entering a decline might not be the smartest of front office moves, and obviously quite shortsighted, if it indeed bombs.
Ibaka isn’t the only defensive-oriented player the Magic added. Bismack Biyombo, in another move that is a bit difficult to explain, was signed. It gives the Magic a pretty strong frontcourt, with two great rim protectors to pair with Vucevic, and not forgetting about the improving Aaron Gordon, hopefully entering his breakout season. However, there’s something that seems like a weird fit in this build, and the Magic might fall flat on their faces if it turns out to be true.
Ibaka isn’t the oldest player on the team: D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks and Jeff Green are older. However, Ibaka is the one with finals experience and 89 playoff games on his resume, including a number of conference finals which he and the Thunder failed to get through. Along with Jeff Green, who was Ibaka’s teammate for a short time in Oklahoma City, the Magic are hoping that the weird potion their concocting works out.
Like Ibaka, Green is a one-year rental. The Magic are basing a lot on this season, hoping they make the playoffs, and establishing themselves as a place veterans, good ones, want to play for, besides developing their own players. Ibaka is important because of his skills and experience, but maybe more than anything, it’s what they gave up for him that matters, which makes his success and hopeful re-signing vital to their entire long-term plan, which probably involves them winning a championship or contending for one at some point in the future.