OKC Thunder: Serge Ibaka in the spotlight, struggling early

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER — Through two games this season, it's obvious the Thunder has made a concerted effort to get Serge Ibaka the ball in the post and on the drive. The only problem: he's struggling in those areas so far.
by Anthony Slater Published: November 2, 2013

Rather than opting for external help via free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder has continually preached internal growth from its core of pre-prime players.

In the obvious spotlight this season: 24-year-old Serge Ibaka.

Already a help-side defensive menace and solid mid-range shooter, Ibaka spent a majority of the offseason working to expand his offensive game.

The improvements are expected to come in three areas: On the drive, in the post and stretching out to the three-point line.

Through two games, the emphasis has been obvious. But the improvement has not.

In the opener against Utah, Ibaka shot 4-of-15. In Friday's loss to Minnesota, he went 3-of-13.

A portion of those misses were uncontested mid-range jumpers, looks that Ibaka typically knocks down. He shot 57 percent a season ago (fourth best in the NBA) and nearly 55 percent between 10 and 16 feet.

“Unfortunately you will have parts of a season where you don't shoot the ball well,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “And we're starting the season not shooting the ball well.”

But with Ibaka, the early struggles stretch a bit beyond those expected in-season lulls.

The expansion of his offensive game is a needed move. It will allow both he and the Thunder to take a step closer to their long-term ceiling.

But it comes with a pair of necessary evils: Growing pains and more statistically inefficient shots.

Ibaka has dipped below his average in the intermediate range. Last season, he shot less than 46 percent between 3 and 10 feet.


by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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