Newly Available Veteran Big Would ‘Welcome Heat Interest’

Serge Ibaka

Getty Serge Ibaka is rumored to have interest in playing for the Miami Heat.

Serge Ibaka is rumored to have interest in playing for the Miami Heat.

Ibaka was waived by the Indiana Pacers on February 11 after being sent to Indy by the Milwaukee Bucks in a four-team trade on February 9. Now, the veteran center is looking for a new team, and one Heat insider says Ibaka is hoping the Heat come calling.

The same day Ibaka was waived, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweeted that Ibaka would “welcome Heat interest.”

Ibaka is in his 14th season and has been in the league since 2009. He has played for five different teams, including the Oklahoma City Thunder (from 2009 to 2016), Orlando Magic (2016-17), Toronto Raptors where he played from 2017 until 2020 and won an NBA Championship in 2019, the L.A. Clippers (2020-2022) and the Bucks (2022-23).

Ibaka Had Limited Role With Bucks This Season

The 33-year-old big man played in just 16 games with Milwaukee this season. He averaged 11.6 minutes a game, and scored 4.1 points while hauling in 2.8 boards, both career lows (stats from Basketball Reference).

He has been inactive for most of the season, and he hasn’t played since Milwaukee’s 118-95 loss to the Washington Wizards on January 1. In that game, Ibaka scored 4.0 points and grabbed 2.0 boards in 16.0 minutes, but he also turned the ball over three times and committed three fouls.

Over his career, Ibaka led the league in blocks twice (in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons) and he has been named to the league’s All-Defensive First Team (2012-2014). He’s nowhere near the defender or post player he once was, but considering the Heat have two roster spots yet to fill and question marks at center behind All-Star Bam Adebayo, it’s fair to wonder whether Miami might consider him.

Jackson also noted in the aforementioned tweet that the Heat will have some pretty big decisions to make when it comes to filling those two roster holes. Miami could also use a backup point guard, and both Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley have been discussed as options, although Westbrook is still with his current team, the Utah Jazz, and has not been bought out yet.

Would Ibaka Be a Solid Option at Backup Center for the Heat?

Adebayo’s backup, rookie Orlando Robinson, is averaging just 1.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in the month of February (he’s averaging just over 11 minutes a game in that span). Robinson averaged 3.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in January (13.4 minutes per contest), so his numbers are comparable to Ibaka’s this season.

Whether trotting Ibaka out there would be better than Robinson or Omer Yurtseven, who is still out after having surgery, is anyone’s guess. A strong argument could be made that Robinson could use all the playing time he can get in order to improve his game, but the Heat can’t afford to get lax — they have to stay competitive.

Robinson also suffered a fractured thumb in early February, so he hasn’t been playing much and he also won’t return until after the All-Star break. Thus, adding a player like Ibaka soon would give Miami some insurance behind Adebayo. We’ll see what the Heat decide.

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