The Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder stole the show at the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday night. The two teams agreed to a deal that will send Serge Ibaka from Oklahoma City to Orlando in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the eleventh pick in the 2016 NBA Draft Domantas Sabonis, the son of Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, to OKC.
To say this move angers Magic fans is as understated as saying the 2016 Presidential Campaign is a circus. Social media is on fire with fans killing the deal and Magic executives.
Victor Oladipo is by far the most popular Magic player since, dare I say Dwight Howard. There are several reasons for VO’s popularity in central Florida, but topping the list is his athleticism with his highlight dunks and aggressive defense, as well as being a major contributor to the community since being drafted out of Indiana with the number two overall pick in the 2013 draft.
The other reason so many Magic fans are sad to see him go is because he was the first major pick after the Dwight Howard saga that tore up an organization that seemed like it was on the verge of delivering a world title that seems to be twenty years in the making. So many relate Oladipo to the new era. And I understand their frustration.
But this is the right basketball move. Domantas Sabonis is an unknown so there’s no need to cry over that spilled milk. The Thunder probably won’t use him for another three years while he develops. That would’ve very likely been the case if he stayed with the Magic. Ersan Ilyasova was brought in for the sole purpose of catering to former head coach Scott Skiles because of their history with the Milwaukee Bucks, which I believe is the same reason that got they guy he was traded for, Tobias Harris, sent to the Detroit Pistons. Ilyasova did nothing of value in his 22 games with the Magic. He averaged 8.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg. He was a throw in as far as I’m concerned.
What this deal really comes down to is trading Ibaka for Oladipo.
This move fills the hole at the power forward position that has been a weakness since former All-Star Rashard Lewis was traded away during the 2010-2011 season. General Manager Rob Henningan has been in desperate need of someone to be a reliable defensive inside presence to pair next to Nik Vucevic. Ibaka is ONLY 26 years old, even though he just finished his seventh season. The three-time 1st-team All-Defensive Team member blocks 2.5 shots a game for his career while pulling down 7.4 rebounds a game. He’s the compliment to Vucevic that had many wondering if a reunion with Dwight was imminent. This move rules that out. That should be enough to satisfy Orlando fans.
While Ibaka will clean up several defensive mistakes by his new teammates, offensively he will also open up room for “Vooch” to work on the blocks. Using advanced stats, Ibaka’s win share was 5.5 in 2015-2016, and he averaged 12.6 ppg while shooting 48% on 2-point field goals on 9.9 shooting attempts per game, his second lowest total in his career. Remember, he played with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, he didn’t get as many opportunities in his last few seasons with the Thunder as many would’ve liked. When they used him, he produced.
The Magic also had to solve their logjam on the perimeter. When you draft in the lottery four consecutive seasons, you should have acquired some desirable talent. GM Hennigan did that, now you have to flip that to get out of this tailspin.
Now you get to resign Evan Fournier who had a career year last season. 2015 top pick Mario Hezonja gets more minutes and so will new fan favorite Aaron Gordon. The wing players still on the roster can supply the necessary offensive duties Oladipo left behind. What Ibaka brings, you weren’t going to find in this draft or in this upcoming free agency period. How about this for a starting lineup on opening night of the 2016-17 season; Elfrid Payton (PG), Evan Fournier (SG), Aaron Gordon (SF), Serge Ibaka (PF) and Nik Vucevic (C). Orlando’s path back to playoffs just got brighter.