The Oklahoma City Thunder has two of the best scorers in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but they will need forward Serge Ibaka to step into the role of the third option if they intend to return to the Finals.
There was a clear scoring void left on the roster when the Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets. Oklahoma City got veteran scorer Kevin Martin in return, but replacing Harden’s playmaking is a difficult task. Durant has worked on his playmaking skills and is averaging a career high in assists and making an effort to create more for his teammates.
But the Thunder will need Ibaka to produce at a near all-star level to keep defenses from keying in on Durant and Westbrook too heavily. Ibaka has become a solid shooter from 15-20 feet, making him a solid option in pick-and-pop plays with the Thunder’s stars.
Ibaka is already a top-notch defensive player, but if he can contribute 15-18 points per game for the Thunder that would take them to a different level. Durant and Westbrook as All-League level scorers, but even they can’t carry a team throughout the Western Conference alone.
The Thunder are getting 13.2 points and 7.8 rebounds from Ibaka, but they will need a little more in the postseason. Ibaka has the size, athleticism and skill to continue developing into a dual threat, and Oklahoma City will need him to accelerate the learning curve to help them get through the playoffs.