August 2, 2016, 7:35 am
Losing a player like Kevin Durant is obviously one of the hardest things that a franchise could try to deal with. Replacing a key component of your lineup is always difficult, but replacing the production of a player like Kevin Durant is nearly impossible. He’s a top five player in the NBA, and those guys are almost never available.
While it may be a difficult adjustment period, Victor Oladipo should help soften that blow, and considering the circumstances, he was likely the best option available. It’s always hard to know who’s available for trade and what it would take to get them, but I would say that Sam Presti got incredible value for Serge Ibaka, and also found the perfect player to address their hole at shooting guard.
Serge Ibaka had become a player that seemed to be less valuable than his reputation would suggest. There was time not too long ago that Ibaka was a dominant force on the defensive end, and being only 26 years old, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to assume that his best years are still ahead of him.
Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. according to Basketball Reference, he averaged career lows in total rebound percentage, block percentage, and free throw rate, which have all been trending down over the last few years. They all point to the same issue, which is his decline in physicality, and his affinity for playing out on the perimeter. With his recent decline, the Thunder were wise to capitalize on the value of his reputation and grab a player that is young, controllable, and most importantly, heading in the right direction.
Victor Oladipo has been improving ever since he entered the league. He came out known for his great defense, and has since proved his value on offense as well. While he is slightly undersized for the shooting guard position, his massive 6’9″ wingspan helps him make up for it.
Oldadipo had his best offensive season last year, posting his highest percentages from the field and 3-point line of his career. His turnover numbers were also far lower than his career average, and as a result, he posted an Offensive Box Plus Minus of one, which is far higher than his career average of -0.1. The overall production has already taken giant steps forward, and with this being his fourth season as a 23 year old, it would not be surprising at all to see him take a few more large steps int the right direction in the coming years.
So the Thunder got a younger, more controllable asset that is also a better player for them right now. The fit is also fantastic, as shooting guard was by far the weakest position for the Thunder last season. With Steven Adams and Enes Kanter on the roster, Ibaka was expendable. Throwing in the fact that they also received the 12th overall pick and Ersan Illyasova, this deal seems to be about as good as they come.
But the fit for the Thunder is even better than this makes it seem. Victor Oldadipo would have provided the team with a perfect third option, which Ibaka never fully became. He can handle the offense which would have given Durant and Westbrook more of an opportunity to play off the ball, and would have given the team a great option as a lead guard when Westbrook was on the bench. According to Basketball Reference, Oladipo has spent 31% of his career playing point guard for the Magic, and that’s with Elfrid Payton on the roster the last two seasons. He also averaged 5.9 assists per 100 possessions last season, which just further proves his ability to take over that role.
Oladipo would’ve also been a far better floor spacing option than Andre Roberson had been. Roberson Averaged a career-high 31.1% from the 3-point line last season, which is not nearly as good as Oladipo’s 34.8%, especially considering the fact that Oladipo did that on around 2.6 more attempts per 100-possessions. Given that Westbrook has never been a great shooter from 3-point range, and spends a lot of his time driving into the paint, any improvement in that area helps.
This would’ve made the Thunder much better this season, and they were already one win away from making it to the finals, so from that perspective the move is not hard to justify. But even now, despite the fact that Durant has left, this move makes a ton of sense for the team.
Russell Westbrook has spent his entire career playing next to Durant, which means he’s used to having a teammate that can take over on offense. Oladipo isn’t nearly as good of a scorer as Durant is, but he’s still a player that facilitate or score when you need him to.
He’s also in an ideal age range where he’s just young enough to start a rebuild around if Westbrook leaves, but also experienced enough to fit into their plans if he decides to stay. Many have talked about the fact that winning is going to be a driving factor in Westbrook’s free agency decision, and adding someone that can help keep the team competitive next season shows him that the franchise is capable of building a winning team even without Durant.
Oladipo is a great fit for this organization and is a major upgrade over Serge Ibaka. The deal represents a perfect fit for the organization. Had they went out and pursued an older player in exchange for Ibaka, then the deal would have come back to bite them when Durant left, and had they gotten future draft picks or a young player that isn’t ready to contribute, then they would’ve made the team less competitive next season, which would likely hurt their chances to keep Westbrook. Oladipo was a fantastic player to add this offseason, and should give Oklahoma City fans hope that the organization can weather the storm of losing a player like Durant.
April 18, 2019, 1:13 amRicky Rubio - G - Utah Jazz
Ricky Rubio put up 17 points with four rebounds, nine assists and four steals in a loss to the Rockets in Game 2 on Wednesday.
He shot 7-of-17 from the field and had the unfortunate matchup against James Harden for much of this game. Harden hit him with a crossover that sent Rubio to the floor, but he missed the shot. The Jazz have been getting good performances from Rubio and Derrick Favors, but the inconsistent play from the remainder of their roster has left them with a two-game series deficit. The Jazz are heading back to Utah for Game 3 as they will try to steal their first game of the series.
April 18, 2019, 1:06 amDonovan Mitchell - G - Utah Jazz
Donovan Mitchell had another poor shooting night as he went 5-of-18 from the field on his way to 11 points in a Game 2 blowout loss to the Rockets on Wednesday.
Mitchell shot just 1-of-8 from 3-point territory and 0-of-2 from the stripe. He also had five fouls and four turnovers while playing a team-high 37 minutes. He did add six assists and two steals, but this was a disappointing performance from the second-year rising star. Eric Gordon has been outshining him, but Mitchell has a chance to rectify things as the Jazz head home for Game 3.
April 18, 2019, 1:00 amDerrick Favors - F/C - Utah Jazz
Derrick Favors played well in his 22 minutes of action in a Game 2 loss to the Rockets on Wednesday, with 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
Although Favors is putting up good numbers in such limited minutes, you should not expect to see him go above 25 minutes at all in this series. He shot 7-of-11 from the field and missed both of his attempts from deep. Also, the Rockets play a lot of small ball as PJ Tucker is their power forward, so Favors is often at a defensive disadvantage when on the court.
April 18, 2019, 12:56 amRudy Gobert - C - Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert did not have a great showing in Wednesday's Game 2 loss to the Rockets as he managed just 11 points and 12 rebounds on 3-of-6 shooting.
He made five of his seven attempts from the stripe and added one assist and two steals to the stat sheet. He did not record a block in this one which is rare to see from Gobert as he averaged 2.3 blocks per game on the season. Clint Capela has been defending Gobert well, which is making things a lot tougher on the Jazz to score and rebound the ball. Gobert will look to bounce back as the Jazz head home for Game 3.
April 18, 2019, 12:47 amRoyce O'Neale - F - Utah Jazz
Royce O'Neale played well on Wednesday in a Game 2 blowout loss to the Rockets as he had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting with three triples and four assists.
O'Neale stepped up as Joe Ingles managed just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting with five steals. He saw 27 minutes of action in this one after seeing just 15 minutes in Game 1. He has guarded James Harden on numerous possessions thus far and it seems as though Harden goes at him every chance he gets. This may be the best game we see from O'Neale all series, but he has given the Jazz some solid run off the bench thus far.
April 18, 2019, 12:37 amJames Harden - G - Houston Rockets
James Harden dominated the Jazz in Game 2 on Wednesday as he triple-doubled with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Aside from his eight turnovers, there was not much to complain about Harden’s performance. Rather, there were elements of Harden’s showing that deserve high praise such as his six triples, one block and toughness throughout the entire game. He would not back down from Ricky Rubio and actually crossed him up in the first half. The Beard is continuing his MVP-like season into the playoffs, which is no surprise given how truly great his 2018-19 campaign was.
April 18, 2019, 12:31 amChris Paul - G - Houston Rockets
Chris Paul put up 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting with two steals and two blocks in a blowout win over the Jazz on Wednesday.
He made just one of his six 3-point attempts and turned the ball over six times. However, he did add four rebounds and three assists to the box score as well. James Harden is clearly the dominating force for the Rockets, but Paul's stability will be crucial for the team to continue their playoff success.
April 18, 2019, 12:25 amEric Gordon - G - Houston Rockets
Eric Gordon outplayed Donovan Mitchell once again in Game 2 as the Rockets beat the Jazz 118-98 on Wednesday.
Gordon scored 16 points on an efficient 6-of-11 shooting and 3-of-6 shooting from long-range. He also contributed one rebound, two steals and one block to the stat sheet. Gordon is tasked with guarding Mitchell, which is the toughest defensive assignment on the Rockets and he is thriving in that role. He has held him to 30 points on 37 shots in the series thus far. This series could potentially end in four games if Gordon continues to play at this high of a level.
April 18, 2019, 12:17 amPJ Tucker - F - Houston Rockets
PJ Tucker drilled four triples on his way to 16 points in a blowout win over the Jazz in Game 2 on Wednesday.
He added two steals and four boards while converting five of his eight shots from the field. The Rockets have confidence in Tucker to fire from deep and he proved them right as he drilled four of his seven attempts from 3-point territory. Surrounding James Harden with 3-and-D wing players has been their formula for success and Tucker fits that mold perfectly. When Tucker is hitting his shots, the Rockets are likely to dominate the way they did tonight.
April 18, 2019, 12:09 amClint Capela - C - Houston Rockets
Clint Capela did not have to do much in the Rockets’ Game 2 blowout win over the Jazz on Wednesday as he had just seven points and 10 rebounds with three blocks.
He shot 3-of-4 from the field and added one assist and one steal to the box score. Although the numbers were down in this one, he did what he had to do in his 29 minutes of action as he kept Rudy Gobert in check as well. Capela is an important cog in the Rockets’ formula for success, so even when he is not scoring as much he is still impacting the game in other ways.