According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Clippers center Serge Ibaka will exercise his player option for $9.7M for the 2021-22 NBA season and return to the team.

After signing on for the mid-level exception last season, Ibaka started the season strong before being slowed and ultimately sidelined by a nerve issue in his back that would wind up costing him most of the season; despite an attempted return for the playoffs, he ultimately had to have back surgery and miss essentially all of the postseason.

Ibaka started the first 39 games of the season for the Clippers but took a slight step back from his previous year’s production in Toronto, most notably from deep where he hit just 33.9% of his attempts after making 38.5% in the year prior. That gap is a huge difference for Ibaka, because the higher number is enough to force defenders out with a hand up, creating more space for guards in isolation and the pick-and-pop while also allowing Serge to utilize the pump fake and drive against closeouts. At 33.9%, he’s capable of making them but isn’t a lethal enough threat to bend the defense as a floor-spacer.

But the most important thing for Serge is his health. Even if he’s not going to hit threes at a high enough clip to be a standout contributor, his smarts on both ends of the floor and well-rounded offensive game mean he’s more than capable of being a solid rotation guy at 20+ minutes per game. For the Clippers, him picking up his player option is a good thing–with no real tools to sign above-minimum free agents except for the taxpayer mid-level exception and the need to both re-sign Nic Batum and find a fill-in for Kawhi Leonard, the team would have had no real means to replace Serge with a similar quality player.

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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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