Grading Serge Ibaka’s intriguing new deal with the Milwaukee Bucks

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 02 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 02 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Serge Ibaka, Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – FEBRUARY 17 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Breaking down Serge Ibaka’s fit and role with the Milwaukee Bucks

When the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Serge Ibaka last season, his fit and role were rather clear up until Brook Lopez returned from his absence due to back surgery. Heading into next season, things should be clearer for both Ibaka and the Bucks from the start.

Fit-wise, Ibaka is a solid piece. He will join Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis in the power forward/center rotation, giving the Bucks some much-needed depth. Given just how much turbulence the Bucks endured at the center position last season after Lopez underwent an abrupt back procedure, having cycled through a handful of different temporary big men, bringing in Ibaka is a justifiable move for depth purposes. If something unforeseen were to happen like it did last season, the Bucks would have a seasoned veteran in Ibaka on the roster to provide some aid.

On the court, Ibaka does a lot of things that make him a good fit for the Bucks. Offensively, he can bully close to the hoop and score inside but the veteran is also not afraid to let it fly from distance, having shot 36 percent from three 1.9 attempts per game in his career. Outside shooting is one of the attributes the Bucks value the most with their big men, and Ibaka fits the billing. Defensively, the three-time All-Defensive honoree fits snugly into coach Mike Budenholzer’s drop coverage philosophy, giving the Bucks another strong interior defender that can protect the hoop.

Where things get interesting is Ibaka’s actual role with the Bucks and how significant it will be next season. It seemed inevitable that Ibaka would depart in free agency this offseason because of how minimal his role with the Bucks was once Lopez returned, but that proved not to be the case. Now, he will remain the fourth big man behind Antetokounmpo, Lopez, and Portis, and his minutes will likely not be prominent nightly.

Ibaka could be utilized to take some pressure off of those three throughout the regular season to help keep their legs fresh during the year. Given that Lopez is coming off a back procedure, having Ibaka to help ease some of the workload and heavy playing time off his shoulders could be a wise move. No matter how much time he sees, Ibaka can undoubtedly help this team win games.