Orlando Magic: Serge Ibaka To Bring Defensive Identity To Team

Sep 26, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel, center Bismack Biyombo (11), center Nikola Vucevic (9) and forward Serge Ibaka (7) pose for a photo during media day at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel, center Bismack Biyombo (11), center Nikola Vucevic (9) and forward Serge Ibaka (7) pose for a photo during media day at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are hoping Serge Ibaka will bring a shot blocking and defensive presence to the organization for the 2016-17 NBA season.

The mantra for the Orlando Magic, established by the newly acquired Serge Ibaka, is a simple one: every shot will be contended.

Ever since dealing Dwight Howard away, the Magic has struggled to keep the opposition from scoring and has lacked an intimidator to sway anyone from attacking the rim.

The result has been Orlando surrendering 101 or more points a game each of the past four seasons and allowing opponents to convert better than 46 percent of their attempts from the field during each of the past two seasons.

To remedy the defensive deficiencies, the team brought in Frank Vogel as coach and made a stunning move on draft night, sending Victor Oladipo, the second overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, to Oklahoma City for Ibaka.

Related Story: 25 Best Players to Play for the Orlando Magic

The 27-year-old forward has led the league in blocks per game twice and has swatted away 2.5 attempts a night during his seven seasons with the Thunder.

Ibaka expects to thrive during his first season under Vogel and made it clear during Orlando’s Media Day session Monday afternoon.

"“We’re going to invite people to the block party,” Ibaka said. “Just be ready, because they are going to enjoy the block party.”"

Rejecting shots consistently has been absent from Orlando, as no player has rejected more than 1.3 shots a night since Howard was dealt to the Lakers in 2012.

The Magic surrendered 43.5 points in the paint each night, the 18th most in the NBA, and knew to avoid missing out on the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, bringing in players capable to complimenting Vogel’s defensive principles became a focal point.

The most intriguing part of adding Ibaka to Orlando was his ability to diagnose the defensive responsibilities of each player on the floor, not just his own match up.

The rest of the organization agreed, sending Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to Domantas Sabonis, the 11th overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, to Oklahoma City for a player the Magic believe can become a foundational piece of the organization.

"“I think we addressed some needs in the offseason, particularly rim protection and physicality up front,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. “Serge brings a defensive ability and skill-set that we just haven’t had for the past few years.”"

Ibaka ranked seventh in the league in blocks per game, turning back 1.9 attempts a night.

Orlando added even more shot blocking with a surprise signing in free agency.

A year ago, only 16 players averaged over 1.5 blocks per game and two of them joined Orlando, as Ibaka helped convince free agent center Bismack Biyombo to sign with the team.

"“The conversation was about us being a defensive team and how we can impact the game,” Biyombo said. “We want to let our teammates know, when Serge is on the floor and when Bis is on the floor, you just have to do you. Let us do us. The goal is no easy looks at the rim.”"

Biyombo has become one of the most potent shot blockers in the NBA, as he is one of just 15 players to block 100 or more shots in a single season at least three times during the past five years.

The 24-year-old was at his best during the Raptors post season run last summer, as he swatted away 27 shots (tied for fourth most in the 2016 playoffs) as he averaged 6.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a night.

Orlando is hoping to employ Bioymbo as a defensive compliment to Nikola Vucevic, the incumbent starting center that averaged 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds a night.

Only Vucevic allowed opponents to convert 54 percent of their attempts at the rim against him, the highest of any player to appear in 33 or more games and average over one block a night.

After struggling to protect the rim by himself over the past four years, Vucevic is looking forward to playing alongside a pair of excellent defenders.

"“They are both very good defenders. They can change the game by having guards from the other team not feel so comfortable at going to the rim,” Vucevic said.“I haven’t played with shot blockers like them in the past. Obviously, I’m not that great of a shot blocker, but I think they can help me a lot on both ends of the floor.”"

The Magic finished the year with a defensive rating of 106.8, the 16th best in the NBA, but realize for the organization to end the fourth longest active playoff drought (Utah and Philadelphia also have failed to reach the playoffs in each of the past four seasons) a new defensive identity has to be established.

"“We are going to be a top-5 team defensively, now we have to bring all of the talent together to be an elite defensive team,” Ibaka said. “On paper, we are a playoff team, but it something we have to work for, it’s not going to be easy.”"

Orlando isn’t looking for a minuscule increase, the team is expecting a massive jump in its defensive rating after adding Ibaka and Biyombo.