Ibaka's four-year scoring averages with OKC: 6.3, 9.9, 9.1, 13.2. With no Martin, the Thunder needs Ibaka to get into the 15-point range, at least. If that happens, and Reggie Jackson's apparent development continues, then suddenly the skies are turning blue again.
“You cannot put a number on what you average,” Ibaka said. “All you can do is play hard. Play hard. That's it.”
No number. But Ibaka has a plan.
“I'm trying to be more aggressive,” Ibaka said. “Try go to free throw more this year. Everybody knows I can shoot. That's my first option on offense, is shoot the ball. My coach is always asking me, if I catch the ball in the post, try to face up, and if they let you, shoot. If I don't shoot, create.”
Ibaka is an OK foul shooter; 71.3 percent for his career. But per 36 minutes, his amount of foul shots has not changed much – between 2.4 and 3.0 per game in each of his four seasons.
An aggressive Ibaka could send shivers up NBA spines. Not just offensively; rebounding, too, where Ibaka is good but has the capacity to be great. But offensive forcefulness would make Ibaka an even better player. He might find himself not only on the foul line more, but even more frequently open for those jumpers.
“Scoring, I see that he will have another jump this year,” Brooks said. “I don't know how much. But we still want to score the basketball as a group and Serge is a big part of how we score.”
Ibaka knows that.
“That's how my team needs me,” Ibaka said. “They know, the first option is always KD. But he needs some support, too. He cannot do everything by himself.”
Durant needs Westbrook. We know that. And to keep the skies blue, Westbrook needs a Harden or Martin or an improved Ibaka.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.