The 2016 draft class may have been underwhelming, but the night was one to remember.
Early on in the night, Sam Presti and the Thunder broke Twitter by trading "core member" and longtime shot-blocker Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic in exchange for young shooting guard Victor Oladipo, three-point shooting big man Ersan Ilyasova, and 11th overall pick Domantas Sabonis out of Gonzaga.
This trade brought out mixed feelings from fans who have watched Serge Ibaka grow from a foul-line dunking young man to the three point, rim protecting force that he is today. But if you put emotions aside and look at the pieces the Thunder acquired, it is easy to say that Presti made the right move...and here is why.
Let's look at Ibaka.
Serge put together a disappointing campaign in Billy Donovan's first year as coach. His 12.6 points per game was his lowest mark since the 2011 season. His three point and free throw percentages also dropped from last year. Defensively, Ibaka also fell dramatically, putting up his worst blocks per game average (1.9) since his rookie season while also regressing in his rebounding rate. Advanced statistics show his PER (13.9) and win shares have dropped fiercely. Through the eye test, he simply seemed out of place in Donovan's system. His defense crumbled and he was never able to find rhythm in his shot. Am I saying Serge has hit is peak? Absolutely not. But it did seem like chemistry was a factor in his statistical drops.
Contractually, the Thunder avoided what could have been chaotic. Ibaka will be a free agent next summer and it is safe to say he will demand a max-level contract....a contract that OKC probably would not have been able to afford.
Now, the acquisitions.
The big name is Victor Oladipo. The former Indiana Hoosier and second overall pick has shown signs of stardom but has never reached that All-Star level that pundits believed he was capable of. In his three years with Orlando, Oladipo seemed constrained from reaching those levels. Whether it was the lack of chemistry with his teammates or the coaching styles he was placed in, Oladipo just did not fit with the Magic. Now in Oklahoma City he can play to his strengths. Oladipo needed to move. He is insanely athletic, he can run, jump, steal, shoot, and finish. With the Thunder, he will be Westbrook's fast-break partner and will finally be able to play in a system that fits his playing style. The better news is that he is still running on his rookie deal which will last until after the 2017-18 season. Right now he will be making $6.5 million next year and $8.5 the next as opposed to $12.25 million for Serge next season and then potentially a max deal the next.
The other pieces are Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis. Ilyasova was a household name until injuries caught up to him. Still, he brings the three-point shooting forward role that the Thunder shipped out. His future with the team is uncertain as he will be an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Domantas Sabonis left Gonzaga following his sophomore season. As a sophomore, Sabonis averaged 17.6 points per game while also grabbing an impressive 11.8 rebounds. Sabonis made his name in college basketball through his ability to rebound, and I consider him to be one of the best rebounders in the draft class. Sabonis has a decent post up game, but I can see OKC utilizing him mostly for his rebounding prowess.
The Thunder are benefiting from the Magic's weak relationship with Oladipo. Orlando sold Oladipo lower than his actual value because they (a) did not think he fit well and (b) needed rim protection and veteran leadership ASAP. The Thunder are also avoiding contract issues with Ibaka by replacing him with Oladipo who will be a restricted free agent, allowing the Thunder to have better control over him than they would have over Serge. Ibaka's demand for a max-contract would have interfered with their ability to resign Westbrook and potentially KD if he agrees to a two-year deal with a player option after the first like I think he will. Rather than risking saying goodbye to Ibaka empty-handed, Presti capitalized on Orlando's need for a shot-blocker. To go along with Oladipo was a nice addition in Ilyasova and an excellent, highly praised prospect in Domantas Sabonis.
Ibaka had his worst year since his rookie season, so I commend Presti for selling him this high.
This trade was not a huge loss for the Magic because Ibaka will thrive under Frank Vogel's coaching, but the Thunder got the better end of this deal in a big way.