Thunder Send Serge Ibaka To Orlando In Blockbuster Deal
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Just a couple of weeks ago Thunder general manager Sam Presti called power forward Serge Ibaka “absolutely” a core member of the organization telling reporters he’d been “fantastic” in the playoffs.
A few days earlier Ibaka said he wasn’t concerned about all the talk recently that he might be on the trading block.
“No, I'm not worried,” he said then. “I'm not thinking, and I'm not talking about this. I'm still a Thunder. I'm going to wear the Thunder jersey next year, too, so there's nothing to talk about right now, because it's not important. It's not really important things.”
Well it’s important now because Ibaka will be wearing an Orlando Magic jersey next season after being sent to Florida in exchange for Magic guard Victor Oladipo, power forward Ersan Ilyasova and Orlando draft pick Domantas Sabonis, a 6-11, 240 pounder who can play power forward and center.
Presti began his post-draft news conference last night by thanking Ibaka.
"He's been absolutely integral to helping us create a foundation of sustainable success for the Thunder," Presti said. "He's been a great citizen of Oklahoma City, and we're confident that he's going to continue his career trajectory with the Magic in Orlando."
The Thunder were reported to have talked with Toronto about sending Ibaka to the Raptors in exchange for the 9th pick but OKC turned thumbs down to that.
The Magic, being run by former Thunder assistant GM Rob Hennigan, upped the ante considerably by adding in a couple of established players.
Oladipo is under contract for next season at $6.5 million. He is extremely athletic at 6-4, 210 and can play both point guard and shooting guard. He was the 2nd overall pick in the 2013 draft and has career averages of 15.9 points (on 43.8 percent shooting) 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in three NBA seasons.
"He is tough-minded, he's competitive, he's selfless," Presti told reporters when asked about Oladipo. "He is a guy that we really feel like not only brings things on the floor for us, but I think he's going to be a real add to our environment, our culture on an everyday basis. "We are thrilled about having him."
Ilyasova has been in the league eight years, most of it in Milwaukee. He has career averages of 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Ilyasova has a team option next season for $8.4 million but the Thunder won't be on the hook for that entire amount.
When the deal was first announced many reporters figured Ilyasova might not stick around OKC, that he would either be sent out as part of another trade or that team option simply wouldn't be picked up but Presti said Ilyasova definitely has a future with the Thunder.
"We traded for him because we think he's a good, complementary player to our core players," Presti said. "He led the league in charges taken last season. He's a 74, 75 percentile, three-point shooter at that position. He's an excellent offensive rebounder. He stretches the floor and as we know in today's league, having people that do that is hard to find."
Sabonis is from Lithuania but came to America to play college basketball at Gonzaga instead of staying in Europe and playing there. He ranked seventh in the country in post-up scoring and third in efficiency according to Synergy Sports. Scouts say he has excellent footwork, tremendous hands and a nice touch shooting the ball. He just turned 20 years old last month.
He’s not as polished defensively but is an excellent rebounder. In fact that might be the strongest part of his game.
Presti said he's been very impressed with Sabonis.
"I think he's pretty diverse in the sense that we have not really had a player at that position or size that has the passing ability that he has. He plays with force. He understands what goes into winning."
Most of the reaction from around the league is that the Thunder got a steal of a deal.
The biggest mystery at the moment is what Kevin Durant thinks of this move.