5 Unanswered Questions from The Ibaka Trade
Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder dominated the NBA Draft day news cycle after pulling off a stunning trade. The sent Thunder ‘Founding Father’ Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the number 11 pick, which became Domantas Sabonis.
This trade has perplexed many a keen NBA observer, with many asking why the Magic would give up three key assets in exchange for as little as one season of Serge Ibaka.
I’d like to pose for your consideration, some of the real questions that linger in the aftermath of one of the more one-sided trades in recent history.
- Does Sam Presti possess nudes of Rob Hennigan?
Serge Ibaka is on an expiring contract. He can walk away from the Magic at the end of this season. Victor Oladipo is 24 years old. He was arguably (*cough, definitely) the Magic’s best player. The Thunder can match any offer made to Oladipo in restricted free agency, securing him throughout his prime. Ersan Ilyasova is a trade chip. They threw in the number 11 pick who could end up being top 6 player in this draft, Domantas Sabonis. What is Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan thinking?
The only logical conclusion is that Sam Presti possesses nudes of Rob Hennigan. Several nudes. Full frontal nudes. Those nudes are now under lock and key, until Sam Presti comes calling again next summer…
2. Who will replace Ibaka to unleash the Primal Scream in the pre-game Thunder huddle?
All the discussion surrounding the Thunder pre-game routine has been focussed on the Russell Westbrook-Cameron Payne handshake game, and rightly so:
However, one of the Thunder rituals that has gone underreported has been Ibaka’s Primal Scream:
Those of you who’ve watch a bunch of Thunder home games on League Pass know what’s up. The question is, assuming this ritual lives on as it should, which member of the Thunder is most likely to take Ibaka’s place and continue the pre-game Primal Scream? Let’s take a look at the favourites:
Steven Adams (3–1): After his breakout post-season where he established himself as perhaps a top 5 NBA center, why not take on the Scream as well? He’s a New Zealander, home of The Haka. It makes sense. The Scream could add to the growing legend that is Steven Adams.
Russell Westbrook (6–1): We’re familiar with Westbrook’s scream game after seeing him unleash several high quality efforts after his dunks. Russell is an angry man, and here’s no reason to doubt that he is capable of leading the Thunder huddle from a screaming perspective.
Dion Waiters (10–1): Let’s face it, having replaced him with a better version of himself in Victor Oladipo, the Thunder have to find something for Dion to do.
Cameron Payne (15–1): I like these odds for Cam Payne. One could argue that the Scream should be conducted by someone with a more physically intimidating frame that Payne possesses. However if his handshake game is anything to go by, I have faith that he can make the Scream his own and get dem Vines flowing real fast.
Victor Oladipo (5,000–1): It would be a real slap in the face to Serge for the guy who replaced him to take over his screaming duties, hence the Leicester City level odds on this happening. Now that’s worth putting a tenner on.
3. Are the Orlando Magic even good?
After leaving the Thunder organisation to take the reigns at Orlando, Rob Hennigan has made a series of questionable draft picks, all of which can be summarised as: “Intriguing, but is he actually good at basketball?”
Let’s take a look at the guys remaining:
I was at this game and I have the Instagram picture to prove it. Payton’s shot is broken like Steven Adams’ nuts after the Draymond Green kick.
Aaron Gordon: Ok, he’s pretty good. A super athletic forward who’s still only 20 years old and seems like he has a lot of upside left.
Mario Hezonja: Only played 17.9 minutes per game in his rookie season under the benevolent dictator Scott Skiles. We’re yet to see what Super Mario is capable of, maybe he’s good, who knows?
Evan Fournier: This guy can actually play, but they’re going to have to match a near-max deal if they want to keep him. They better match it too, or else they will have given away Tobias Harris, Oladipo and Fournier and got perhaps a one-year rental of Serge Ibaka in return.
Nikola Vucevic: This guy is so bad on defense that they traded their best player to get Serge Ibaka to protect him. Just trade Vooch to the Kings for Ben McLemore and get it over and done with, Hennigan.
After examining the question of whether the Orlando Magic are even good, my analytics department have returned the following: “Jury is still out, but probably not.”
4. Are the Thunder better now?
This is a fair question. The Thunder were 11 Game 6 Klay Thompson three pointers away from going to The Finals, and perhaps winning a title. It takes brass balls to not just run it back with the same squad and say to Durant, “We’re this close. You can’t walk away from this now.”
The Thunder core of Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka has been an intimidating sight for the rest of the league for years now, and to break that up is one helluva big move from Thunder GM Sam Presti.
Ibaka was respected as a shooter with range out to the three point line — he basically led the league in 3P% in the Playoffs. As such he provided much-needed spacing for KD and Westbrook on a team that has Kyle ‘NSYNC’ Singler as a ‘shooter’. Serge can still defend, despite declining athleticism. Steven Adams will be tested with bigger minutes and KD, if he returns, will have to play more minutes at the 4 spot.
So are the Thunder better after this trade? We’ll see. Ultimately, if Durant stays this season on a one-year deal, the trade is good. If he stays long term, the trade is great. If he leaves, it will inevitably be pointed to as a reason for him leaving, even if it wasn’t.
5. Are Dion Waiters’ days numbered in Oklahoma City?
After a playoff run where he had people flocking to buy condos on Waiters Island, Dion Waiters has rehabilitated his reputation and will surely see some rich offers come his way once free agency commences on July 1st. Prior to the Ibaka Trade, it looked like the Thunder would be forced to match any offer that Waiter got, no matter how ridiculous it seemed. To let him go and get nothing in return would’ve been a really bad look with Mr Durant keeping a close watch on the roster and whether he thinks the Thunder have enough to compete with the Warriors and Cavs again next season.
Now that the trade is done and Victor Oladipo is in Thunder blue, suddenly the Thunder have the luxury of a two-way shooting guard on their roster, and they can be a little more selective on how high they go to keep Waiters.
If both players are in OKC to start the season, Oladipo should and will likely be the starter. You know Dion will not like that. With that future in mind, will Waiters seek a fresh start on a team where he can be The Man, at least in his own mind? Who knows. All I can say is that I for one have enjoyed The Dion Waiters Experience while it’s lasted, and I hope the Thunder re-sign him for a fair price.
As we’ve seen in this year’s Playoffs, depth of talent wins in the NBA, and you can never have enough guys who can make plays. Stay in OKC, Dion, you’ve got a good thing going here.
You can follow my NBA thoughts on Twitter @FrancisOKC.