In advance of tonight’s NBA Draft, the Thunder are exploring the trade market for Serge Ibaka, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reports (ESPN Now link). It’s unclear who or what Oklahoma City is seeking in return for the talented forward.
Ibaka, 26, has one season remaining on his current deal and is set to earn $12,250,000 in 2016/17. The former No. 24 overall pick has been a valuable performer for the Thunder during his career, but his numbers did take a slight dip this past season. In 78 appearances, all as a starter, Ibaka averaged 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 32.9 minutes per outing. He shot .479/.326/.752 from the field.
If Ibaka is indeed dealt, it will be interesting to observe how it alters Kevin Durant‘s free agency plans this summer. Unless the team parlays Ibaka into multiple assets who will contribute immediately, it’s difficult to imagine such a move pleasing Durant. The primary motivating factor for OKC is likely Ibaka being set to hit unrestricted free agency next summer and the team not being willing to pony up a maximum salary contract for the forward. Especially given that Russell Westbrook will also hit the open market next summer and re-signing him will almost certainly take precedence over retaining Ibaka. Durant, if he re-signs on a short-term pact, could also become a free agent, thus making future cap flexibility a necessity for the team.