Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka dedicated summer to getting better
The Thunder's defensive specialist has become consistent in several areas. All can be attributed to offseason work.
Serge Ibaka is doing things he didn't consistently do before.
Some of them are basic, like locating and landing in the open spot offensively.
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Some are more intricate, like reading and reacting to defenses and making the right pass.
But the Thunder's starting power forward is now blossoming into a well-rounded ballplayer, giving Oklahoma City a much-needed additional offensive threat in its first unit.
Ibaka's development can be attributed in part to six weeks playing with the Spanish national team this summer. Playing in a system that was heavily reliant on its big men being facilitators rather than the beneficiary of wing playmakers, Ibaka was forced to adapt to a different style. And while playing behind the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, Ibaka got a front-row seat to two of the world's best passing big men.
“You could tell he just watched those guys and learned a lot,” said Kevin Durant.
It's almost shocking to now see Ibaka's improvement offensively.
More than ever before, Ibaka is floating to open spots for midrange jumpers and cutting through the lane for easy dump-off passes that end in uncontested dunks. When he gets the ball at the high post, Ibaka has learned to turn in rhythm and find shooters on the perimeter or slashers attacking the basket.
“He dedicated his summer to getting better,” said Thabo Sefolosha. “You can see it.”
In his four preseason games, Ibaka has averaged 14.3 points on 52 percent shooting. Perhaps more encouraging is he's already registered three assists, hinting that his passing could be on the verge of becoming a weapon as well. As a rookie, Ibaka had just 10 assists. In his second season, Ibaka finished with 22 assists. Last year, he had 28.
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