Most people don’t watch the NBA Draft to cheer for a kid who attended their alma mater for a semester. WojBombs continue to lap the television and radio broadcast in terms of dissemination who was picked–the top two selections were known for months. What piques our interest in any draft is the potential for insane, landscape-altering trades. The Oklahoma City Thunder sent forward Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to 11th overall pick Domantas Sabonis. While it did not register high on the Richter scale, it served as a precursor of things to come.
Ibaka, who turns 27 in September, provided an intimidating presence around the rim and gradually improved his outside shooting every season until this one. His 3-point percentage dropped from 37 to 32 in addition to all of his counting stats taking a dip in 2015-16. Trading Oladipo hands the keys to the backcourt to Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier with Mario “The Croatian Mamba” Hezonja, Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic rounding out the first unit. Having a forward coming off the bench who could theoretically sit on a 9-foot high bench in Aaron Gordon is not too shabby either. That’s all to say the Magic will likely find themselves in the lottery once again. This summer revolves around the brightest star in free agency.
Any blockbuster transaction made this offseason will be placed in the context of courting Kevin Durant. Case in point: the New York Knicks shipped Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon to the Chicago Bulls for Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick. The Knicks are taking a flyer on the 2011 MVP who has one year remaining on his contract and a tidy infographic charting his injuries. If Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton was replaced with balsa wood, you would get Derrick Rose.
The Knicks have a rare seat at the table in the Durant Texas Hold ‘Em winner-take-all grudge match. They are flanked by the Thunder, the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. Team president Phil Jackson went all-in at the flop stage of the game with a mediocre hand. His counterparts, Sam Presti, Bob Myers and R.C. Buford respectively, hold superior cards embodied by their rosters and recent success.
Ibaka was an afterthought in the Western Conference Finals as Steven Adams and Enes Kanter stole the show with their endless stamina and effort. Oladipo is a robust offensive option at shooting guard which has been nonexistent for the Thunder for years. He gained experience in a sixth man role this season and may be asked to do his best James Harden circa 2012 impression. Ersan Ilyasova can replicate Ibaka’s perimeter game if he can ever stay on the court. Domantas Sabonis opened eyes in the NCAA tournament when he dominated ninth overall pick Jakob Poeltl and could be a viable rotation player in the near future.
Durant is widely expected to sign a two-year deal with a player option after the first to enter the market with Russell Westbrook next year. This grants him an even larger contract under the expanding salary cap and because he would be entering his 10th year in the league, the CBA entitles him to a larger percentage of the cap. Durant says marketing opportunities and salaries won’t factor in his decision, just basketball. Don’t fret Knicks fans, I hear Dwight Howard is lovely this time of year.