After losing James Harden via trade last season, many whispers stated that the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t have a third player who could compliment Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Many analysts wondered how the Harden effect would affect the Thunder’s development without a third quality player.
A year later, that logic has been taken care of. Serge Ibaka is proving that that Thunder has a “Big 3″, Ibaka is a very solid player who plays on both ends of the court, which is rare in this day and age. Ibaka is the team’s best defender, shot blocker, rebounder, and he also gives you enough on the offensive side of the ball to keep teams honest.
The Western Conference Finals is showing the worth of Ibaka. He was out of the first two games with a calf injury, and since returning from injury, he has helped fueled the Thunder to consecutive wins. It also helps that Westbrook and Durant have been playing out of their minds, but I can bet you that the Thunder would not be in the position that they are in without Ibaka.
When looking at a so-called “Big 3″, I think people tend to focus on points. Ibaka rarely cracks 20 points, but his impact is so vital in other areas. He may not be officially an All-Star yet, but he is playing like one. The development of Ibaka is crucial to the Thunder’s success. The better Ibaka plays, the better the Thunder plays as a team.
As of now, he is playing out of his mind, and that may translate to a NBA Finals appearance for the Thunder.