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How much would Serge Ibaka help the Heat?

He barely played for the Bucks. But could he be a suitable backup center?

Washington Wizards v Milwaukee Bucks

While most of the players on the potential buyout market are guards — Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, John Wall, etc. — the Miami Heat’s biggest area of need is in the front court. And Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald said that Serge Ibaka would “welcome Heat interest” in a recent tweet.

The Heat didn’t make a trade to upgrade the power forward spot beyond Caleb Martin and Haywood Highsmith. Miami also made the salary-dump Dewayne Dedmon trade without receiving anything beyond cash considerations.

Ibaka isn’t the same player he was when he won a championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019 — similar to Kyle Lowry. For the most part, players are on the buyout market because they aren’t going to move the needle.

Alonzo Mourning in 2005 is the exception that proves the rule. (Chris Andersen was not bought out in 2013, but not under contract to begin with — like Dedmon in 2021.) Mike Bibby was historically bad. Joe Johnson played well during the regular season, but cratered in the playoffs.

Ibaka played in just 16 games with the Milwaukee Bucks this season. He was a fringe rotation player to begin the season, but was often inactive from late November onward.

But for the Heat, the question is whether he stands as an upgrade over Orlando Robinson as Adebayo’s backup — and Omer Yurtseven when he comes back. (Perhaps there was a time when Ibaka could’ve been a suitable big next to Adebayo, but that time has passed.) And Ibaka certainly could offer 10-15 minutes a night while Adebayo rests. Yurtseven’s encouraging playing time during the 2021-22 season has to be balanced against the fact that he’s returning from ankle surgery.

And though Robinson seemed to be a breath of fresh air compared to Dedmon, let’s not kid ourselves. Ibaka deserves a chance.