Everything was cool for a moment. Sure, there was a Ricky Rubio trade earlier in the day, but there were rumors of that move happening long before it actually did. The dust settled quickly, and as the clocked was counting down to the beginning of free agency, all was quiet on the western front.
But then Ramona Shelburne went and dropped this bombshell:
The Pacers were supposed to be courting offers from San Antonio, Cleveland, Houston Los Angeles and Boston’s treasure trunk of assets. Where the hell did the Thunder come from? The details began trickling in.
You read that correctly. Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and NO DRAFT PICKS. Not even second rounders.
After months of searching for the “right deal,” Indiana and every other team’s hesitancy to make a move finally came back to bite them. While the return the Pacers got certainly isn’t nothing, it’s difficult to understand how the Thunder’s package was the best offer on the table.
Breaking Down The Trade
Oklahoma City Thunder
Will the real Sam Presti please stand up?
On the one hand, this is the guy who drafted the Thunder’s original core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. He was also the guy who promoted Scott Brooks to head coach, the guy who made the moves necessary to take the franchise to their first Finals appearance since 1996 when the team was still in Seattle.
On the other hand, this is the guy who tore it all to shreds, gave Harden away for bits pieces and couldn’t quite hit on enough deals to get the team back in the Finals. Then he fired Brooks, traded away Ibaka, and watched his prized possession, Durant, walk out the door.
Taj Gibson and Andre Roberson were the only free agents on the roster, and OKC was looking at an empty salary cap stash. They were fairly close to approaching… the luxury tax line. *gasp*
With no wiggle room to make a move in free agency, Presti took his shot at the trade market.
Sabonis was the team’s token starter at power forward, allowing newly-appointed head coach Billy Donovan to inject a burst of liveliness via Enes Kanter or Gibson once the opposing defense began bogging down on the Westbrook Show. However, he did next to nothing with his minutes, averaging 5.9 points on .399 percent shooting.
Oladipo was supposed to be the piece that convinced Durant to stay and would have been perfect as a third option for the Thunder. However, after Durant’s departure, his expectations were raised to new levels and he struggled to meet them through the regular season and the playoffs.
Westbrook needed a true complimentary scorer who would also allow him to hide on weaker matchups on defense. George fits that mold perfectly. Add in the fact that Oladipo is scheduled to earn more than George this season (meaning OKC would be GAINING cap space), and the trade became a no-brainer for the Thunder.
Now, Presti is the guy who stole George and made the rest of the league look foolish. It’s still unclear whether or not this is a rental, but either way, it shouldn’t be difficult to recoup the value of the pieces they gave away.
Quickly, let’s go through the list of trades the Pacers were rumored to be offered before agreeing to this trade:
- San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge, maybe with Danny Green
- Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon and salary cap scrubs
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love (straight up)
- Denver Nuggets: Whatever they were willing to give up for Kevin Love
- Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and picks No. 27 and 28
- Boston Celtics: Anything other than their good players or draft picks
And that’s just in the past two weeks! Imagine what they were getting at the trade deadline back in February! Any of those proposals would have been better than the one they accepted.
It’s impossible to know how many (if any) of those offers were real, but given what Indiana settled for, it’s clear that most teams were too fearful of George leaving after just one season to pull the trigger.
Oladipo will be thrust into a similar role that he had in OKC; he might even have the ball in his hands a little more with Jeff Teague gone. That probably won’t bode well for the Pacers, and what’s worse, he’s owed $85 million through 2021.
Sabonis is still on his rookie deal and not nearly as expensive, but he also didn’t show a ton of promise in his first year. His play might improve if he comes off the bench to battle second units, but Indiana should also experiment with him alongside Myles Turner.
Had the Pacers gotten any kind of draft compensation, this trade would have looked much, much better. At the trade deadline, both Lou Williams and Bojan Bogdonavic went for first round picks. Even DeAngelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov’s contract were enough for a first round pick. The fact that Indiana couldn’t convince the Thunder to attach one in this deal makes this move all the more head scratching.
George’s arrival may hinder Westbrook’s chances to repeat as MVP, but who cares. This deal pushes OKC back into 50-win territory, and maybe more. Bringing back Gibson and Roberson will be their focus moving forward, and adding a backup point guard would be huge if they can afford it.
For Indiana, it’s time to hit the reset button and focus on developing their young players. Adding another prospect would have been a major boost in their rebuilding process, but with no extra picks, the Pacers will have to start from scratch.