ESPN's Royce Young wrote an article last night, and in it, he shares a lot of insider information that may come as a shock to the Golden State faithful.
During the draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to a blockbuster deal, trading Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illyasova, and the draft rights to the 12th pick, Domantas Sabonis. Opinions on the Thunder's return for Serge Ibaka ranged from laudable to laughable.
But Young's article sheds a great deal of light on the subject for outsiders like Dubs Nation, who can only follow from afar.
First thing's first: The Thunder brain trust expects that Durant will agree that this is a good move for the Thunder. Not in the event that he should leave, and not for the long term. A good move for right now. Young points out that Durant was never BFF with Ibaka, and his role as the good solider and benevolent leader (sounds more like a communist dictator...) underlies the fact that he was growing frustrated with Ibaka, especially as he complained about touches in the second half of a very successful season.
"...for both Durant and Westbrook, Ibaka was often a target of on-court rebuking. The Thunder stars were often frustrated with Ibaka’s mental mistakes, with heated arguments breaking out in huddles regularly. Durant is a team player, and defends anyone wearing the same jersey as him, but behind the scenes he was always open to moving Ibaka. In the summer of 2013, Durant spent a week working out with Kevin Love, and told some close to him he’d trade Ibaka for Love."
That's a far cry from the image of Ibaka that many outsiders share: the franchise cornerstone and longtime member of the big three. But the reality is different: Steven Adams has already supplanted Ibaka's seat in the triumvirate. And despite being a longtime defensive laughingstock, 22 year old Enes Kanter will almost certainly be a more important player moving forward, if he wasn't already.
The Thunder had reason to expect a 26-year old veteran to shop himself as an unrestricted free agent the following off-season. And with Adams stepping forward, there was a strong probability that Oklahoma City would be forced to let Ibaka walk for no compensation. Rather than wait on that to happen, the Thunder sent Ibaka packing for assets as early as possible.
On top of all of all of that, Victor Oladipo is exactly the type of two-way guard that the Thunder lacked when they played the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The lack of consistent wing scoring aside from Durant and Russell Westbrook made the Thunder easier to defend. And despite some strong playoff performances from Ibaka, he remained a difficult play with Kanter, Adams and Durant all demanding minutes. The Thunder beat the Warriors up on the offensive glass, that series, but they don't need Serge Ibaka to do that again (and remember, they got the best traditional big in the draft in drafting Sabonis). And despite being an athletic defender on switches, we all know he can't contain Stephen Curry at 25 feet.
Zach Lowe opined in his own article that Serge Ibaka may be a buy-low candidate, arguing that his declining production owes to unhappiness with his role in Oklahoma City. To that, I would simply caution to never bet your lottery-bound franchise on a guy who gets unhappy with shots in the biggest year of his career (from a contract and playoff success standpoint). That's begging for trouble.
Especially if the guy looks noticeably slower and less effective from an athletic standpoint (and despite developing a three-point shot, Ibaka remains a player reliant on his athleticism). At least, the Warriors seemed to think so.
True story: The Warriors had Klay guard Ibaka in large part because they assumed the big man had aged so dramatically— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) June 24, 2016
Serge Ibaka Reportedly Unhappy With Role in OKC Prior to Trade https://t.co/LdMzMp8Wso— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) June 24, 2016
Ibaka complained when Westbrook was a ballhog and his shots dwindled. Huge offensive loss for OKC https://t.co/whUrMWjOGo— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) June 24, 2016
OKC didnt lose to GS bc of SG void, they almost won because of their versatile super-athletic big men. That's why i dont like trading Ibaka.— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) June 24, 2016
GSOM, what do you think about these #HOTTAKES?