Discussing Serge Ibaka with Welcome to Loud City

Dec 23, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) blocks a shot by Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) during the fourth quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) blocks a shot by Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) during the fourth quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic’s controversial move to acquire Serge Ibaka is not without question. Lots of them. We learn who Ibaka is from Welcome to Loud City.

The Orlando Magic pushed their chips to the center of the table on draft night, acquiring Serge Ibaka from the Oklahoma City Thunder. It came at a heavy price, costing the team Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the 11th overall pick (Domantas Sabonis).

Ibaka’s reputation is that of an elite shot blocker and defender. He was a former all-defensive player and the “unicorn” of a player with great rim protection abilities and the athleticism to guard on the perimeter. He was an incredibly important piece for the Thunder as they were able to switch and defend the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

He is a truly unique and different kind of player. One the Magic have needed for a long time and can transform the team’s defensive outlook.

The Magic have looked for a good defensive pairing for Nikola Vucevic, someone who can guard the new wave of stretch-4s and help protect the rim. Ibaka was always the name brought up as the perfect power forward to play next to him. The question now will be whether he can make good on that or whether it even matters if Vucevic is involved in pick and rolls. Or even if the Magic keep Vucevic at this point.

Orlando seems very excited about Ibaka’s potential and versatility. It seems like he is the perfect fit to anchor Frank Vogel’s defense.

Of course, Ibaka is coming off one of his worst seasons of his career. He had his defensive numbers drop and his raw statistics were nothing to look at. Still, this was a player with a positive defensive box plus minus and 3.0 defensive win shares.

Even if Ibaka does not return to the level of play he was at a few years ago, he will have a net positive effect on the Magic’s defense. The hope is pairing him with another jump-shooting big man will get him closer to the basket on offense where he is a little more effective.

There are legitimate questions about Ibaka and how he fits in and what he can bring. This move was not a sure thing for sure.

What are the Magic getting exactly then? Is it the player that changed opposing offenses in 2013 and 2014, or the player slowed by injuries and a lineup that pushed him out to the perimeter?

To answer this question, we reached out to Adam Joseph of Welcome To Loud City, formerly of Thunderous Intentions, to break down who Serge Ibaka is as someone who has watched him for most of his career. Adam also writes some for BBallBreakdown.

Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily: Serge Ibaka obviously was a part of some incredible Oklahoma City Thunder teams. What was his lasting impact on the franchise? What will he be remembered for?

Adam Joseph, Welcome to Loud City: It has to be his defense. He improved so much as a defender, from being solely a shot blocker to becoming an incredible pick-and-roll defender under Kendrick Perkins‘ guidance. One of the first bigs who was good at guarding players on the switch, I have a lasting impression of him doing it on Eric Bledsoe one night in Phoenix. A player that athletic and Serge could still stay with him. Always called him the NBA’s true unicorn, I still believe that.

Philip: This debate has seemingly started now among Magic fans: Can Serge Ibaka play center? What is his best positional fit? Does that even matter with his defensive versatility?

Adam: I don’t think it matters. With [Nikola] Vucevic, he’s the forward who can stretch the floor, but with Gordon I feel they can terrorize the NBA with their athleticism and double rim protection. He’s a situational center, but we saw in the Western Conference Finals when Adams sat he was the small ball five. That was the Thunder’s best lineup in that series. I’d love to see him do it more in Orlando in the right matchup.

Philip: A lot is being made about Ibaka’s production decline the last two years. What do you make of it? Is it an issue with Ibaka himself or the players around him? Or has he reached his peak? Can he still be an all-defensive player?

Adam: It has been widely reported (and was during the season) that Ibaka was a bit frustrated with his role. In the Playoffs, he switched on and his numbers backed it up. He was being told to pass up the open shots he was told to take under [Scott] Brooks and move the ball for better shots, that was tough for him. I don’t believe he has peaked, I believe the emergence of others in the team dimmed his influence. I believe Frank Vogel will love him, and return him to All-Defensive promise.

Philip: What do you think Ibaka’s ceiling is? There were some reports Ibaka was unhappy with his role and wanted to be featured more. Can he step into a bigger role on a team like the Magic?

Adam: Definitely can. Firstly, it’s a contract year, who doesn’t play better in those? The Magic have the need and the cap space to pay him big in a year, and he knows it. The touches and shots he didn’t get, he will get now. It’s hard to find a more ideal trade for him than Orlando, at both ends of the floor.

Philip: How do you view Ibaka’s fit with the Magic from what you understand about their roster?

Adam: The Magic have long needed an Ibaka type who could shoot and protect the rim, and they found him. It gives the Magic flexibility in the front court (Vogel loved playing two bigs in Indiana and his best teams did so) but he’s also perfect for when you go small. His shooting will be welcome in a team that needs it, and we still don’t know what the Magic roster will look like come tip off night in October. I’m excited to see what he can do in Orlando, big time.

Next: Criticized Serge Ibaka deal moves Orlando Magic forward

Philip: My thanks to Adam for taking the time to answer my questions about Ibaka. Hopefully this gives Magic fans a better idea of who it is the Magic acquired. Be sure to follow Adam on Twitter @adamjosephsport.