Seconds after selecting Domantas Sabonis with the 11th overall pick, news began breaking that the Orlando Magic were trading Sabonis, along with Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka.
Looking to turn yet another corner and fully compete for a playoff spot, the Magic needed to make a splash in a big way. While moving on from Oladipo, a player who has shown high upside and might not have reached his full potential, is tough to swallow for some, it's a calculated risk that the Magic needed to take.
Despite coming off a down year with the Thunder, Ibaka adds things that the Magic desperately needed. With Nikola Vucevic at center, the Magic have missed a rim protector, something that's so important in todays game. Ibaka, who has averaged 2.5 blocks per game for his career, brings a proven rim protector to the table, and someone who brings some edge and nastiness that they need.
At 26, soon-to-be 27, Ibaka will be the Magic's second oldest player heading into free agency, meaning he'll likely have to step up into a more refined leadership role.
With an important free agency looming, adding their first piece in Ibaka now gives the Magic another intriguing pick that could help draw another impact free agent. Ibaka is the type of player that won't demand the ball, and plays within the offense well, which will undoubtedly help as the Magic search for more scoring options.
Add in the fact that Oladipo and Elfrid Payton, who the Magic highly covet, were clearly not going to work in the long-term without a miracle, and the deal makes even more sense for the Magic. Moving on from Oladipo puts even more importance on re-signing Evan Fournier, but the Magic were going to do that either way, no matter what his price tag may end up as.
The Magic made a move to fill a need with a player who likely didn't fill into their ultimate long-term plans. As Rob Hennigan said following the trade, "you have to trade a good player to get a good player."
Ibaka's versatility also opens the door for the Magic to potentially be able to make other impactful moves to continue to improve the roster. With his ability to play center, and Aaron Gordon still and important part of the team, Nikola Vucevic could become more expendable, leading the Magic to moving on and inserting Ibaka into the starting center role.
While Ibaka only having one year remaining on his contract could be troubling, the team anticipates they'll be able to keep him moving forward. Even if they don't, and the Ibaka experiment fails, then they'll have the the cap room without Oladipo taking up a large chunk to go and improve the team in a free agent class that will likely be stronger next summer.
Ultimately, moving Oladipo, as well as Sabonis, is a calculated risk for the Magic, but one that they ultimately had to take. Just adding Sabonis wasn't going to help the Magic take that big of a step forward, and wouldn't have potentially helped them as they enter free agency.
Ibaka will be able to come in and make an impact on the team, and hopefully help the Magic as they continue to move forward with their rebuild.