Why Serge Ibaka trade means Kevin Durant stays with Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 16: Kevin Durant (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 16: Kevin Durant (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s decision to trade Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic is great for Kevin Durant’s chances to return to the Thunder and here is why.

When Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti put starting power forward Serge Ibaka on the trading block the afternoon before the 2016 NBA Draft, people were initially looking at it as an opportunity for Presti to get something for nothing, as Ibaka was likely to walk in 2017 NBA free agency.

While he was almost traded to the Toronto Raptors for the No. 9 overall pick, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Presti firmly believed that he could get more than that for his star power forward.

A few minutes later, Presti did just that in a blockbuster deal with the Orlando Magic. While Presti sent Ibaka to Orlando, he got essentially a king’s ransom for his starting power forward: shooting guard Victor Oladipo, small forward Ersan Ilyasova, and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical of Yahoo! Sports.

If anybody in the Thunder organization should be jumping up and down with joy in the aftermath of this blockbuster trade, it has to be 2016 free agent and Thunder star small forward Kevin Durant. With these three players coming back Oklahoma City’s way, the Thunder now have the pieces to realistically win the 2017 NBA Finals.

Oladipo solidifies that shooting guard spot over Andre Roberson. Roberson and Dion Waiters are both solid rotational pieces out on the wing, but Oladipo has the ability to honestly become a star in head coach Billy Donovan’s elite player development system. The Thunder get a great athletic wing that can at the very worst play elite on-ball defense and get big buckets in the paint.

Ilyasova is an upgrade as a backup at small forward to that of Kyle Singler. Ilyasova has a nice shooting touch and has been a valuable commodity with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Detroit Pistons, and most recently the Magic. He’ll provide great wing depth and scoring to Donovan’s 10-man playoff rotation.

Sabonis is the son of Basketball Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis. His college coach Mark Few at Gonzaga said he was the best pro prospect he’s either ever coached or seen in his time at Spokane. Sabonis will become an elite rebounder and has the genetics of an elite front court passer. He’ll grow next to Steven Adams in the Oklahoma City front court for years.

Durant will have to honestly assess this trade and think to himself how truly lucky he is to have as brilliant of a general manager as Presti is. Losing Ibaka stinks, but adding Oladipo, Ilyasova, and Sabonis to the Thunder’s impressive eight-man rotation, this team can beat anybody in next year’s NBA Playoffs. Durant would now be an absolute fool to leave the Thunder in 2016 NBA free agency.

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