When Thunder general manager Sam Presti pulled off the blockbuster, and initially surprising move to ship Serge Ibaka to Orlando, the rumors quickly began to swirl; was this the first move in the total reconstruction of the roster? Does this mean that Kevin Durant is Golden State-bound?
But taking a closer look at the pieces that Oklahoma City got in return answers both of those questions with an emphatic no.
What the Thunder got back for their star power forward was a potential star in Victor Oladipo, a quality backup small-forward in Ersan Ilyasova, and draft prospect Domantas Sabonis.
With Oladipo, the Thunder are getting a quick slasher with a knack for interior scoring, who packs a punch on the defensive end, especially when it comes to his on-ball defense.
This bodes well because during the Thunder’s promising but eventually heartbreaking playoff run, their weak link stuck out like a sore thumb; Andre Roberson.
Although Oladipo’s jumpshot isn’t completely polished just yet, it still provides a significant upgrade over Roberson’s, who time and time again was dared to shoot against Golden State, and consistently failed to connect on those wide open shots as the Warriors stormed back from a 3-1 deficit and ended Oklahoma City’s season in heartbreaking fashion.
Given his active off-ball movement and ability to finish around the rim, the Indiana alumni is the Thunder’s first genuine attempt at replacing James Harden, and he and Russell Westbrook will make up what is undoubtedly the most athletic backcourt in the association.
With Ilysaova, the Thunder are getting a notable upgrade over backup forward Kyle Singler, who’s only noteworthy contribution in the postseason was showing up with this pitiful haircut.
Ersan will provide much-needed bench scoring, and gives depth on the wing.
Domantas Sabonis, a Lithuanian prospect, was really just a throw-in. But with what Kristaps Porzingis did last season, who knows anymore with these mysterious Europeans?
All this means that resigning Durant is all but guaranteed for Oklahoma City. After all, they were only a historic collapse away from reaching the Finals for the second time in five years, where they most likely would’ve been favored over the (at the time) one-dimensional Cavaliers.
The Thunder were seconds away from taking down the record-breaking Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Now they’ve regrouped, revamped and their stars are hungrier than ever. Look out, NBA.