How the Serge Ibaka Trade Set Up Oklahoma City’s Future

December 25th, 2016 by Michael Pina Leave a reply »

BOSTON — Even as Russell Westbrook turns the oceanic NBA into his very own above-ground swimming pool, the Oklahoma City Thunder have no choice but to look ahead.

In the franchise’s first 30 games without Kevin Durant on its roster, short-term championship contention is in the rearview mirror, with day-to-day, big-picture improvement from their overhauled, inexperienced group now the primary focus.

Expectations are significantly lower than they were seven months ago, and everyone knows why: Durant now plays for the Golden State Warriors. But that decision was out of Oklahoma City’s control. The other foundation-changing shakeup, however, was not.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti always has his eyes on the future, and a couple of weeks before Durant left to team up with three other All-Stars, one of the NBA’s shrewdest tastemakers shipped Serge Ibaka’s expiring contract to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo, Domas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova (who was eventually flipped to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jerami Grant).

Given the Thunder’s cu ...

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