Welcome to offseason coverage of Hoosiers In The NBA! Today I am looking at an NBA Draft trade that has one former Hoosier going from a rebuilding team to one on the cusp of championship greatness. Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:
On a night where neither Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell nor Troy Williams were drafted into the NBA, fans of professional Hoosiers received an even bigger surprise when the Orlando Magic traded Victor Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder in arguably the biggest move of NBA offseason so far. In this article I will go over the details of the trade and why both teams agreed to the deal, what Oladipo’s role will be on the Thunder, and how it may determine one of the biggest plotlines of the NBA offseason.
The complete trade saw the Magic acquire power forward Serge Ibaka in return for the 11th overall pick (which became Domantas Sabonis), Ersan Ilyasova, and most importantly former Indiana Hoosier Victor Oladipo. I’ve seen some people on the internet question why this trade happened so let’s take a look at why both sides agreed to this swap:
Why Orlando Did It: The Magic have been looking to acquire a franchise player for years and management felt that Ibaka was its best bet. While that may seem ridiculous for some, Ibaka was an All-Star for the Thunder as a third-option so there is potential that he could flourish as the number one guy just like James Harden did when he went to Houston. Obviously the chances of that happening are slim but to the Magic it was worth the gamble, especially for a player who fits so perfectly with the current roster. (Even though both Ibaka and Aaron Gordon play power forward, I can see Ibaka moving to center in crunch time since Nikola Vucevic is a below-average defender)
Why Oklahoma City Did It: The Thunder need cap space moving forward, and it seemed that Ibaka wasn’t a good fit nor was very happy in Coach Billy Donovan’s system, finishing what amounted to a very disappointing season. All three players the Thunder received make a lot of sense as Sabonis offers depth behind Steve Adams and Enes Kanter, Ilyasova provides a cheaper alternative to the stretch-four or an easy buyout to help with the salary cap, and Oladipo offers a great defender for the starting lineup that can shoot better than Andre Roberson and makes retaining Dion Waiters less of a priority.
I’d also like to disprove the notion that the Magic “gave up” on Oladipo. You can bet that if Orlando GM Rob Hennigan had the option, he would love to have a starting five anchored by the defense of Ibaka and Oladipo. The fact is that Oladipo was Orlando’s most valuable trade chip and any potential trade for an all-star player would likely include the other team asking for Oladipo in return. The Magic also have plenty of depth at the position to swallow the loss of the former second overall pick as Mario Hezonja should improve and Evan Fournier will likely stay.
While the backcourt of Oladipo and Russell Westbrook sounds very exciting and over-the-top athletic, there will be some growing pains, especially for Oladipo. Used to being the guy in Orlando, Oladipo will quickly need to transition from being the main ball-handler to playing more off the ball. Gone will be the isolation plays and instead Oladipo will have to catch-and-shoot more.
Of course, there’s always the chance that the Thunder implement a rotation where Oladipo is allowed to take control of the offense for stretches of the game just like Harden did back in 2012. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Oladipo is used in the sixth man role, especially if Waiters isn’t re-signed. One thing we do know is that, at least for this upcoming year, Oladipo will be asked to be more of a three-and-D player than an offensive playmaker like he was in Orlando.
Of course the biggest question this trade brings up is how it will affect Kevin Durant?
While initially it looked like the Thunder were making this deal to help soften the potential blow of Durant moving on from Oklahoma City, this was clearly a move made to entice Durant to return.
Moving Ibaka signaled three things to Durant:
- There will be more cap space not only this offseason but also in the future
- Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti is not afraid to shake up the roster so as to stay young but also competitive
- The team is taking notice of who Durant would like to play with and have brought in a guy in Oladipo that Durant really likes.
It’s no coincidence that the Thunder traded for Oladipo. Durant has always been really high on him, even once stating that the former Hoosier reminded him of a young Dwyane Wade. If Durant really believes that statement, I don’t see how he doesn’t come to the conclusion that Oklahoma City gives him the best chance to win and returns next season.