The Thunder looked primed to be one of the best teams in history with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the charge. Not to mention, they managed to find a gem in then-Sixth Man James Harden and also shot-blocking big man Serge Ibaka.
The Thunder found themselves in the Finals in 2012, with a very young crew that were ultimately outmatched by the vastly more experienced and dominant Heat crew led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
But Durant shocked everybody and ended up leaving OKC, while James Harden was traded to the Rockets after their Finals appearance. While these two moves had a major factor in the downfall of the OKC Thunder, it was the trade of Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic that led to the overhaul of the franchise that we see now.
This is how it all happened.
Thunder Trade Serge Ibaka to the Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and draft rights that became Domantas Sabonis
This move was no surprise, as the Thunder looked to be trading away any players that did not fit the plan at the time. The Thunder were planning on building around Russell Westbrook, and adding a young player like Victor Oladipo was a no-brainer. Oladipo wasn't thriving in Orlando, and his potential was not being realized as a two-way player.
The Thunder hoped that he would be the next running mate alongside Russell Westbrook and newly found gem Steven Adams. While Oladipo was a serviceable player who could defend, it was his trade that was more crucial for the Thunders future.
Thunder Trade Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers for Paul George
The OKC Thunder finally found their replacement for the newly-departed Kevin Durant, in superstar Paul George. This trade immediately put OKC on the map as a contender once again, giving Russell Westbrook another All-Star and All-NBA performer with the hopes of bringing a title to the city. Many fans felt that this was their year and that they would finally be crowned NBA Champions which Kevin Durant was never able to do.
The Thunder were a very good team during the regular season and even acquired Carmelo Anthony to form a solid big three. Come playoff time, however, and the Thunder were simply not good enough. The big three experiment didn't work out, and George was especially disappointing when it mattered most. Even after Carmelo's departure a year later, the Thunder fell in the first round in the playoffs and the George-Westbrook wasn't prevailing as many thought.
Thunder Trade Paul George to the Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, 2022 LA 1st Round Pick, 2024 LA 1st Round Pick, 2026 LA 1st Round Pick, 2021 Miami First Round Pick, 2023 Miami 1st Round Pick, 2023 & 2025 Pick Swaps
In one major move, the Thunder moved Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for a slew of first-round picks, scoring swingman Danilo Gallinari, and budding young star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. It was finally time for the OKC Thunder to rebuild, and they could've done a lot worse than bringing in five valuable first-round picks and a young point guard to lead the future of the franchise.
In what used to be a superstar tandem of Durant and Westbrook, only Westbrook remained but it wasn't long before he was dealt as well. But what is most surprising is that the trade of Serge Ibaka ultimately allows the Thunder to rebuild and attain the talent that they have now.
SGA will be their point guard of the future, and the pick and pick swaps can be used to acquire All-NBA caliber rookie talent down the line. They can even use the picks to trade for a superstar player of their own, one who might be able to bring a title to the franchise - which neither Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant were able to accomplish.
Overall: Thunder Traded Serge Ibaka for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, 5 1st Round Picks, and 2 Pick Swaps