Happy Independence Day to all of our US readers! In the spirit of the day (or something, I don’t know, this is a tough segue), the Milwaukee Bucks are bringing back Serge Ibaka on a one-year deal.
Terms of the deal aren’t immediately known, but the notable wrinkle in this signing is that Milwaukee holds Ibaka’s Early Bird rights, meaning that the Bucks could go over the cap to sign Ibaka to a larger contract. The veteran’s minimum exception may not apply here, but Milwaukee is pretty high in the luxury tax already so it’s not likely Ibaka received a sizable offer.
Either way, the Bucks got their (fourth big) man. Ibaka was brought in last season as insurance against any setbacks in Brook Lopez’s recovery, and it turned out that his services weren’t desperately needed. Ibaka didn’t play a ton; he appeared in 19 games and logged 339 minutes, and achieved true “afterthought” status in the playoffs (22 total minutes). Milwaukee simply didn’t have minutes for the one-time Supersonics(!) draftee behind Lopez, Bobby Portis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. That being said, several voices pointed out that the lack of a reserve big over the course of the regular season was an unnecessary risk, and it seems that Milwaukee is avoiding that risk this time around.
In any case, Ibaka is an aging veteran who has some familiarity with this roster and coaching staff, and his on-court role will be minimal. It’s not likely that he’s called upon to play major minutes; in the minutes he does play, he’s a smart team defender and a willing shooter. You can do a lot worse for one of your deep reserve spots.
The Bucks are left with just one open roster spot going forward, and depending on how Jordan Nwora’s restricted free agency plays out they might simply be finished building the team for training camp. It’s become clear that the front office is betting on continuity once again, and Ibaka’s return is just another sign of that gamble.