The NBA Draft has come and gone, and now, before you can even catch your breath, NBA Free Agency is upon us. Before the draft, the Dallas Mavericks had been linked to free-agent point guards Jrue Holiday, Kyle Lowry and Jeff Teague as potential starters for next season. However, after landing Dennis Smith Jr., who seems to be capable of starting from day one, the Mavs can now focus on improving in other areas.
One position Dallas should be looking to improve: power forward. Yes, Dirk Nowitzki is a legend and can still light it up every now and then, as he did on the night he eclipsed 30,000 career points this past season. The 39-year-old is still the best power forward on his team, and it’s not even close. But, he needs help. After splitting last season between the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors, could Serge Ibaka be the answer?
In 79 games, Ibaka averaged 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds, shooting 48 percent from the field (39 percent from deep) in a little over 30 minutes per game. For his career, Ibaka has a 54.2 effective field goal percentage. On the defensive end, he averaged 1.6 blocks per game, something I'm sure the Mavs would love to pair with Nerlens Noel.
Offensive efficiency is one of Ibaka’s biggest strengths. His numbers aren’t always eye-popping, but his averages have been fairly consistent over the course of his career. What you see is what you get, which is essentially 12-15 points and seven rebounds per game.
Another strength of Ibaka’s is timely defense. Averaging nearly two blocks per game, he brings the sort of rim presence that we’ve come to expect exclusively from the center position. And although it isn’t his specialty, Ibaka can hold his own on the perimeter as well.
Unfortunately, Ibaka isn’t quite the athlete he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder. After suffering a calf injury in the 2014 playoffs, he never really regained his former explosiveness. That being said, Ibaka is only 27 years old, and the Mavs have the sort of coaching and training staffs that strive to get the most out of their players.
Although Ibaka shot a career high from the free-throw line last season (85.6 percent), he doesn’t get there very often for a big man. This past season, he ranked 17th amongst other power forwards with just 1.3 free throw attempts per game.
Fit with the Mavericks
Ibaka would be a great fit with the Mavs. I’ve always thought that Dirk dragged him so bad in the 2011 Western Conference Finals, that Ibaka started to model his game after him from that point forward.
He can shoot threes. He’s a very good pick-and-pop guy. Pair that with the fact that he’s still in his prime, and you’ve got yourself a great match for this Mavs team. Think about a starting lineup of Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Ibaka and Noel. Dirk making a transition to the sixth man role would be a hard pill for fans to swallow, but it could be best for the team in this situation. Dirk would simply torch other teams’ second units.
There haven’t been any rumors linking Ibaka to the Mavs. In fact, it’s been reported that the Mavericks front office is not going to chase big fish this summer. Is Ibaka in the same “big fish” category as say, Blake Griffin? I wouldn’t think so. Still, you’d have to figure Ibaka’s price might be a little out of the Mavs’ range, especially if they’re intent on keeping Seth Curry next summer.