Orlando Magic May Really Benefit From Draft Night Trade For Serge Ibaka

By Kareem Gantt

All throughout the night and into the blistering hot day, Orlando Magic fans have been panning the Magic’s front office for trading Victor Oladipo, a fan-favorite around these parts, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka.

“This was a horrible trade!” many fans in the Magic Kingdom are thinking. And for a while, I was thinking the same thing. How could the Magic trade a budding star like Oladipo for a power forward/center hybrid who is trying to figure out his place in the modern-day NBA?

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to see the trade differently, and other skeptical Magic fans should follow in my re-awaking.

One of Orlando’s biggest needs this offseason was a rim protector and shot blocker that they could pair up with Nikola Vucevic in the frontcourt. Why? Because although Vucevic is an immensely talented offensive center, his defense leaves a lot to be desired, and he needs help on the glass as well.

Ibaka could very well be that guy. Not too long ago, Ibaka was considered one of the best big men in the NBA, but as the game has gotten smaller, his game has become more obsolete. But he could pay dividends in Orlando, allowing Vucevic to get a break on defending the opposing team’s best big man and offering help on the glass and on defense.

The trade also allows the Magic to be flexible in the lineup and could possibly open up a starter’s job for Mario Hezonja, the Magic’s prized draft pick from a year ago. A starting lineup of Elfrid Payton, Hezonja, Aaron Gordon, Ibaka and Vucevic is certainly a playoff-caliber roster in the East, and with new coach Frank Vogel on board (remember, he made Roy Hibbert into an All-Star), Orlando could have the tools needed to make the leap into the postseason.

Did Orlando pay a tad too much for Ibaka? Yes. But the Magic added the rim protector they needed and didn’t have to use up any of their free agent money, which, in my mind at least, was a victory for the Magic on draft night.

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