Here’s the trade:
OKC receives: Courtney Lee & NYK’s #8 pick
NYK receives: Victor Oladipo & Kyle Singler
First off, I’m a big fan of Victor Oladipo, and I think Sam Presti did a fantastic job of Euro-stepping Serge Ibaka’s incoming free agency and finishing a graceful layup by landing Sabonis and Oladipo. Flipping Ersan Ilyasova for Jerami Grant was just the icing on the cake and Presti’s version of Westbrook doing the Euro-step/dance, without the ball, after just making someone look dumb. Although his role in OKC didn’t reflect his entire skill set, I think Oladipo is a dynamic playmaker who will make an all-star game in the next few years. If your question is, “Why would you want to trade Victor? I have two reasons. If the Thunder do not plan to expand Oladipo’s role, I think this contract is too expensive for a “3 & D” player. Watching Oladipo stand around and wait to shoot spot up 3 pointers is almost as unbearable as watching Doug McDermott check into the game, play 4-6 minutes, and not attempt a 3-pointer. The second is because it’s the offseason and the draft is around the corner—what’s better than fake trades? Inside the OKC fan base, there has been a lot of chatter concerning ways for the Thunder to move up into the draft—this is one.
I keep hearing OKC fans and media members pining for Kanter trades—but that is based on the “irrational fan allure” that teams, not only, have Kanter on their wish list, but also have the desire to eat that 18-million-dollar salary. It isn’t impossible, I’ve seen Presti wave his magic wand quite a few times, but Kanter is a tough move—and OKC doesn’t have the draft picks and young assets to convince a team to take on his salary. Also, Kanter has an early termination offer at the end of next season; therefore, he will most certainly pick that up, put on his swim suit, and take a dive into the new cap spike pool. OKC will be free to walk away from Kanter after next season—just one more season Thunder fans. It’s not like he is Kyle Singler.
In this scenario, OKC would bring in a veteran shooting guard that shoots a career 38% from three-point range, and shot 40% from behind the line last season. Oladipo and Lee’s assist, block, and steal rate last season was virtually identical. Oladipo pulled down 1 more rebound, and put 6 more points on the board per game last season, but Oladipo attempted almost two more three pointers per game—perks of playing with Russell. I feel more comfortable accepting Courtney Lee as a spot up shooter—3 and D—and paying him 11.7 million than wasting Victor’s skill sets and asking him to play that role with a 21-million-dollar salary. Victor’s role on the Thunder, at least last season, is not worth the Thunder’s investment, and I’m afraid as long as number 0 is running the offense his role will not alter in the future. Courtney Lee, at 6’5, is a proven perimeter defender who can potentially knock down 3-pointers at a 40% clip—for almost half the cost. The Knicks in turn get a young dynamic play making guard to fit the Porzingis timeline in New York, and take him away from a ball dominate point guard—which could unlock more of his potential. I think Victor is certainly worth 21 million dollars in the modern NBA, but with Westbrook calling the shots, his role is too minimalized in Oklahoma City.
Obviously, a large part of the trade is acquiring the #8 pick in the NBA draft, and when you have Sam Presti that pick has historically been gold. It’s hard to project who the Thunder might take in that spot, but I trust Sam Presti in the NBA draft like I trust Russell to wear outlandish outfits. Since Sam Presti was hired as the general manager in 2007, he has had three top 10 picks—Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. As of today, he is batting 3 for 3 in picks he has made in the top ten. The next closest pick to top ten was the #12 pick in the 2013 draft—from the James Harden trade—Steven Adams. Sure, Presti has had a few head scratchers and picks that didn’t pan out, but picking outside the lottery, which OKC has been consistently doing over the last few years, is difficult for any General Manager. This trade gives Sam Presti the opportunity of having two draft picks, #8 and #21, in the 2017 NBA draft and brings in a veteran—while also creating more financial flexibility to make more moves in the future. Assuming Roberson declines his qualifying offer, this deal brings the Thunder under the salary cap—by over 3 million dollars. Oh, don’t forget about unloading Kyle Singler! Any trade involving Kyle leaving Oklahoma City should be accepted, immediately right? As for the draft, does Jonathan Isaac fall to #8? Could Presti draft the knock down shooter in Lauri Markkanen—worry about defense later? Would he take a flyer on Frank Ntilikina at the guard spot, and try to pair him with Westbrook on the floor? What about pick #21? Could this be a good move? In Presti We Trust…