According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Clippers will sign veteran center Serge Ibaka.

While the terms of the deal have not been leaked yet, I’d assume that this is for the Clippers’ full mid-level exception of $9,258,000. That contract is allowed to run for up to four years, but Ibaka preferred the flexibility of a shorter deal, signing for two years.

The time for analyzing Ibaka’s full impact on the Clippers will come once the dust has settled, but suffice to say this is a huge addition for the team, particularly in light of the departures of Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green yesterday. At this point in his career, Ibaka almost exclusively plays center and doesn’t have the same elite mobility and athleticism that made him one of the league’s best shot-blockers earlier in his career, but he’s developed a well-rounded offensive game that saw him score in similar volume and efficiency to Montrezl Harrell last year.

Combining that offensive punch with Ibaka’s championship experience, defensive smarts (while he’s not as athletic as he used to be, his IQ and positioning remain), and locker room leadership represents a huge upgrade for the Clippers–turning a potential disastrous loss of front court depth into a net gain for the team this off-season. I wrote a few weeks ago that Ibaka would be a dream fit for the Clippers because of his experience, leadership, firepower, and floor-spacing at the center position.

With Ibaka now in the fold, the Clippers have 12 players under contract and $5.2M in wiggle room under the hard cap–and using the non-taxpayer MLE on Ibaka officially causes the team to be hard capped this season. Since they’re required to carry at least 14 players, the Clippers are essentially now faced with the option of either utilizing the bi-annual exception ($3.6M) on a 13th player and then signing a veteran’s minimum contract ($1.6M) on a 14th, or signing three veteran’s minimum players to fill the final three roster spots.

Here’s the current depth chart:

Point GuardPatrick BeverleyLou WilliamsTerance Mann
Shooting GuardPaul GeorgeLuke KennardAmir Coffey (2W)
Small ForwardKawhi LeonardJayden Scrubbs (2W)
Power ForwardMarcus MorrisPatrick PattersonMfiondu Kabengele
CenterIvica ZubacSerge IbakaDaniel Oturu

With no backup small forward to play minutes behind the load-managing Leonard, and Patrick Patterson as the team’s weakest second-unit player, they’d be smart to pursue defensive-minded forwards that can fill that void while covering for the deficiencies of Williams and Kennard on the second unit. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Solomon Hill, and Torrey Craig would all be good options.

Then, the Clippers will add either one or two additional minimum players (depending on whether they obtain a defensive forward using the BAE or minimum), likely providing supporting depth on the wing or as an emergency point guard.

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Lucas Hann

Lucas Hann

Lucas has covered the Clippers since 2011, and has been credentialed by the team since 2014. He co-founded 213Hoops with Robert Flom in January 2020.  He is a graduate of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA and St. John's University in Queens, NY.  He earned his MA in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University.

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