Prior to the start of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder were in immediate need of a third scoring option. Everyone pointed in Jeremy Lamb’s direction as that third guy. Sure, he has the skills to be a solid option as a scorer, but this is only his first year actually getting playing time. It’s just too early for him to be a comfortable and consistently good NBA player.
Now the Thunder are 6-3 and their hunt for a third scoring option seems to be coming to an end. Lamb has been solid, but he isn’t the guy who’s been there to have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s backs. Rather it’s been their best defender, Serge Ibaka, who’s been playing the best basketball of his career this season.
Ibaka is averaging just above 15 points and 10 rebounds per game; both career highs. He has a few games where he eclipsed the 20 point mark; he’s also coming off a 20 rebound game just last night against the Milwaukee Bucks. That number ties his career high in rebounds. You could even argue that he’s been the Thunder’s second best player behind Durant. While Westbrook is usually that guy, the transition from a serious injury to an early return isn’t always going to run smoothly.
Ibaka has clearly been listening to the critics when it comes to his team’s lack of scoring options. He knew someone had to step up, but no one figured he’d be the player to do so. Ibaka has been hitting those open jumpers, he’s taking less threes and he’s been more active on the glass. You couldn’t ask for more from your power-forward.
Still, even with Ibaka playing so well, the Thunder will need to see a little more consistency from players like Lamb and Reggie Jackson. Steven Adams has shown some flashes, but he hasn’t done much lately. The Thunder will eventually work everything out, but for now they will be safe behind the strong play of their own big three.