3 reasons to love the Milwaukee Bucks’ trade for Serge Ibaka

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 07 (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 07 (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Los Angeles Clippers: Serge Ibaka
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – FEBRUARY 28 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Reason No. 2 to love the Serge Ibaka trade for the Milwaukee Bucks: They added an established big man

The Bucks have been without starting center Brook Lopez since the second game of the season.    Lopez played in the huge season-opening win against the Brooklyn Nets and hasn’t played since because of a back injury. While Lopez may return before the end of the year, the Bucks have been trying to fill the role any way they could.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis have filled in at the center position at times admirably, however as the season went on it was clear that Giannis needed a break from the physicality of guarding the opposing teams biggest and strongest player night after night and Portis, while improved on defense, is still not a rim protector.

The Bucks tried DeMarcus Cousins, who was helpful in the paint on offense and gave some relief rebounding. However, the Bucks front office decided that his 3-point percentage, lack of defensive ability, and wanting to keep the open roster spot were more important than guaranteeing Cousins’ contract for the remainder of the season. The Bucks brought back a familiar face in Greg Monroe on a 10-day contract, but that was likely just meant to get the Bucks through the trade deadline or possibly until Lopez could return.

The Bucks were able to get the big man they needed at the deadline in Ibaka, and they could have really used him immediately in Thursday night’s NBA Finals rematch against the Phoenix Suns to wrap up their four-game west coast road trip. The Suns won by double digits aided mainly by a strong paint presence by scoring 68 points in the paint and turning nine offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points. The shorthanded Bucks were forced to defend big men like Deandre Ayton, Javale McGee, and Bismack Biyombo with smaller players like Jrue Holiday, Wesley Matthews, and Pat Connaughton at times.

Having Ibaka (and Lopez) would have aided tremendously. Ibaka has led the NBA in blocks twice in his career as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and is a three-time All-NBA defender. Not only does Ibaka contribute defense but he is also making 38.7 percent of his 3-point shots this season.