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Begley: How real is Nets’ recruiting of Serge Ibaka? Real enough to worry other teams

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NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Serge Ibaka played seven years with Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City so in the F.O.K. hierarchy, he’s right up there. The 31-year-old seven-footer is a free agent this fall so it stands to reason that KD would love a reunion, but the Nets are limited in what they can offer.

Would a shot at a second ring be enough to lure him into taking a huge pay cut —from $23.2 million to the TMLE of $5.7 million? Ian Begley of SNY says don’t discount it.

[P]rominent members of the Nets organization would like to see the club sign free agent Serge Ibaka. Ibaka is close with Kevin Durant, and he’d be an incredible addition for a club with title aspirations. But can Brooklyn afford Ibaka? It seems highly unlikely that he’ll sign for the tax-payer exception ($5.7 million per year). Ibaka made $23 million dollars last season.

Some teams preparing for Ibaka’s free agency believe he’d at least consider the non-tax payer midlevel exception for four years. That exception starts at $9.2 million and has maximum raises of five percent. Those teams monitoring Ibaka’s free agency believe he’d have interest in a deal in the neighborhood of three years and $12-15 million per year from teams with cap space.

The Nets can’t offer the latter because they won’t be able to get under the salary cap...

Could the Nets get under the cap? It’s hard to imagine considering they’re $23 million over the cap after their trade of Dzanan Musa for Bruce Brown Jr. on Monday.

Still, Ibaka has over the course of his career earned $120 million and there are those who think his top priority may not be making more money but winning a ring with a friend. (Alson, Ibaka, Durant and James Harden played two years together in OKC.)

Ibaka’s last two years in Toronto were statistically the best of his career, but as Begley points out, there are other even more significant numbers on his resume, numbers that could make him an attractive candidate for one big final contract.

He is a proven winner (won an NBA title in 2019; just LeBron James and Ibaka have 600 wins since 2010, and Ibaka ranks in the top 5 in playoff games played by active players). So Ibaka can make a strong case to earn a large contract this offseason from contending teams...

We’ll know soon. Free agency begins this weekend.