The Clippers’ last trade before the deadline a couple weeks back was moving Serge Ibaka to the Bucks as part of a four team deal where they received Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood in return. Our writers came together to give their thoughts and grades on the Serge Ibaka trade in this roundtable.
Shapan Debnath: B-
Eh, kinda average. Maybe a second rounder would be nice. The TPE may or may not amount to anything, but Serge was wasting away on the roster. Was hoping this move meant others were coming, but instead was a ho hum move that hopefully, at least, leads to Amir getting converted in the near future.
Kenneth Armstrong: B
The Clippers did right by Serge by getting him to a contender, for whom he might have an opportunity to fill a need and get playing time. It was clear that Serge’s time in LA was over: the tension was that he did not have a solid role on the Clippers, but his “stature” as a “championship player” made it awkward for him to be riding the bench behind a guy in Isaiah Hartenstein who barely made the roster during training camp. I am agnostic about the return because I do not think Hood or Ojeleye will be around for long, which is fine. This grade would be better if the Clippers had already converted Amir Coffey to a full roster spot. That was supposed to be the objective paired with getting Serge to a new team, but it hasn’t happened yet, for some reason.
Cole Huff: B
I was one of those guys holding out hope that Serge would eventually come around but with each passing game, it became more and more clear that wasn’t going to happen. It’s too bad, too, because we know how important of a piece a Toronto version of Serge would have been to this Clippers squad. As for the trade, I honestly don’t really know what to make of it. I’m sure there’s likely some smart money management stuff going on with the trade, so there’s that. If they’re actually holding onto both Hood and Ojeleye for the rest of the year, then I’d probably rather have kept Ibaka. Either way, doesn’t seem like a significant trade.
Lucas Hann: B-
Look, sometimes a move is just one you have to make and not an amazing value win that falls in your lap. That’s fine. The Clippers needed to part with Serge and they did so without either having to cut him (costing an extra ~40M in luxury tax penalties and not creating a TPE) or using a 2nd round pick to get someone to take him (saving the tax money and creating the TPE, but costing an asset). A couple bonus points for sending him to Milwaukee, which they maybe didn’t have to do, and actually writing the Bucks a check to cover the rest of his paychecks this season. The vibes are right. I’ll be pulling for Serge to have a good run for the Bucks this spring, and for the Clippers to find a better use for their last two roster spots to make this trade worth it.
Ralston Dacanay: B
As much as I loved the Serge Ibaka signing when it first happened, the way things have worked out since then made it pretty clear he was a prime target to be moved. The main reason this trade doesn’t get a higher score from me is that there’s not much to get excited about this one. It’s one of those moves to set up the next move. LAC essentially took their third-string center and turned him into a large trade exception and saved about $30 million in luxury tax payments. It is great, however, that the front office was able to get this done without having to give up any draft capital. I also do think they did right by Serge Ibaka in the trade, as Milwaukee is an awesome fit and situation for him, and I wish him nothing but the best.
Robert Flom: B-
The Clippers got off Serge’s contract without giving up an asset (and no, cash doesn’t count), which is somewhat of a win. Serge’s tenure was disappointing, and keeping a player of his stature on the roster but out of the rotation didn’t seem tenable, so trading him to a legit contender where he’ll get minutes in the Bucks is great. The reason this isn’t higher is that the Clippers brought over Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye, who I assumed they’d waive to promote Amir Coffey to a full deal and sign a new two-way guy. So far, they haven’t, and every day that Hood and (especially) Ojeleye remain on the roster is somewhat irritating. In other words, I’d give this grade a bump if the Clippers hadn’t gotten anyone at all in return, or had already waived Hood and Ojeleye. Still, not bad.
David Mendez-Yapkowitz: A
The Clippers’ major move this season came before the trade deadline in moving Eric Bledsoe, Justice Winslow and Keon Johnson to the Portland Trail Blazers for Norman Powell and Robert Covington. But they had a follow up deal on the deadline itself, sending Serge Ibaka to the Milwaukee Bucks for Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye.
Before the start of the season, it was assumed that Ivica Zubac would be the starting center with Ibaka as the backup. Ibaka was out to start the season while still recovering from back surgery and the team signed Isaiah Hartenstein as extra insurance during the preseason. What they didn’t expect was for Hartenstein to play as well as he did as the backup center and for him to essentially make Ibaka expendable.
When all three of Zubac, Ibaka and Hartenstein were healthy, Tyronn Lue tried a three-center rotation, but it was evident that was going to work long-term. Throughout the season, Hartenstein was just flat out better than Ibaka. Ibaka received several DNP’s earlier this season. With this move, the Clippers cleared up the rotation while giving Ibaka the opportunity to find a role with a contending team that needs him.
So far, neither Hood nor Ojeleye has featured prominently in the rotation and neither one is expected to post All-Star break. This move was solely about the Clippers freeing up a logjam in the rotation for a better player in Hartenstein, and giving Ibaka the opportunity to play a larger role on a good team.