The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing more and more like the best team in the Western Conference right now, but there chances of returning to the NBA Finals don’t lie with stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but with big man Serge Ibaka.
Ibaka has become the Thunder’s third scoring option in their starting lineup, being relied upon to provide some offense to go along with the shot blocking exploits that Ibaka has become known for. Ibaka has responded will to the added responsibility and is averaging career highs in both scoring and rebounding with 13.5 and 7.8 per game, respectively. Ibaka has even extended the range on his jump shot out to the three-point line, with the athletic 6’10” connecting on 15 of his 41 attempts from deep, good for a respectable .366 percentage.
Taking on a larger offensive role has not hampered Ibaka’s defensive efforts. Ibaka is still averaging close to three blocks a night (2.95), anchoring the Thunder’s defense as one of the best help shot blockers in the game.
What’s even better for the Thunder is that Ibaka is just 23 and still improving. Ibaka still needs to add a couple go-to post moves to his arsenal but given the growth in his game from year to year, it’s safe to assume Ibaka will do so before long.
The Thunder appear to be the favorites to again represent the West in the Finals and they know what they will get out of Durant and Westbrook on a nightly basis. Ibaka will need to consistently be the third option for the Thunder if they want to continue to be the top team in their conference.