Oct 10, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
It’s easy to argue that the Thunder got worse this summer by losing Kevin Martin to the Timberwolves in free agency, and getting nothing in return to replace his offensive production in the lineup.
For a slide to be avoided, Kevin Durant is going to have to raise his game to an even higher level, especially during the first couple of months of the season while Russell Westbrook is recovering from a second knee surgery.
Young guys like Reggie Jackson will have to continue to develop as well, but the team is hoping to see a leap from its best defensive player to help bridge the gap on the other end of the floor.
Entering his fifth season, the first of his contentious four-year, $49 million extension, Ibaka must now take on the role of third scoring option. More than that, it’s time he also blossoms into the Thunder’s best post defender. Oklahoma City’s championship hopes might depend on it.
Harden is long gone, and Kevin Martin walked this summer. That leaves Ibaka as one of the few remaining players the Thunder can count on to complement Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Everyone else outside of Reggie Jackson is either a defensive specialist or a big fat question mark.
“He has to continue to have an impact on the game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Ibaka.
The thing is, Ibaka wasn’t that far off statistically from being that third option last season.
The drop off from Durant and Westbrook to Martin was substantial, but Martin’s 14 points per game average was followed closely by Ibaka’s 13.2, and Serge played more minutes to get there.
It’s pointed out in the article that Ibaka’s per-36 numbers approach 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, which would be reasonable for him to achieve if he’s given an expanded role this season. But that’s only a marginal improvement from last year’s averages, and it won’t be enough to replace Martin’s production, hot-and-cold as it may have been.
For Oklahoma City to play deep into the postseason, they’ll need Durant and Westbrook to be greater than usual, they’ll need Ibaka to improve by averaging the numbers projected or beyond, and they’ll need some of the young guys to develop and contribute ahead of schedule.
It seems like an awful lot to ask.
May 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Cavaliers could be OK against the Bulls (even without Kevin Love), Warriors remain favorites and more lessons from the first round
May 3, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Thibs may not want to go to Orlando if he becomes a free agent as a coach.
May 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The Clippers got a free look at the final play.
May 3, 2015, 12:58 AM EDT
Tell me again how he can’t win the big one.
May 2, 2015, 11:53 PM EDT
There’s not going to be a better series these playoffs.
May 2, 2015, 10:56 PM EDT
It was going to take a shot like that to win this, the best first-round series in recent memory.
May 2, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT
He was out for eight minutes the Clippers were only -2.
May 2, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT
Dudley has player option for $4.25 million for next season, but hopes to back in Milwaukee regardless.
May 2, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
The Warriors (and the Bulls, and the Hawks) may have something to say about that.
May 2, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
Portland was very good with Matthews healthy this season, but he’s now an unrestricted free agent, and it’s unclear how high the Blazers will go to retain his services.
May 2, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Changes are ahead in Brooklyn, and Johnson sees them coming.
May 2, 2015, 2:39 PM EDT
Well-deserved, but somehow Dunleavy comes away unscathed.
Nets coach Lionel Hollins on whether it took too long for his team to figure things out: ‘Did we make the playoffs?’
May 2, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Hollins was defiant after the Nets were eliminated from the postseason, and believes the fact that they made the playoffs at all was an achievement worth noticing.
May 2, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Korver’s hot start was indicative of how things would go.
May 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Dunleavy hit Michael Carter-Williams in the neck early in Chicago’s Game 6 win over the Bucks.
May 2, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Does Blake Griffin have another big fourth quarter in him.
May 2, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The guy Rose was guarding shot only 39 percent for the Bucks.
May 2, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT
Impossible to believe.
May 1, 2015, 10:34 PM EDT
Atlanta’s elite offense returned, and Brooklyn had no answers.
May 1, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT
An earlier report emerged that said the Celtics planned on trying to trade for Cousins this summer.
- Adjusting for playoff rotations round two: Watch out for the Wizards 0
- Hobbled Chris Paul, Clippers’ role players do just enough to dethrone Spurs in Game 7 17
- Chris Paul banks in game winner to lift Clippers past Spurs (VIDEO) 25
- Report: Bulls’ Mike Dunleavy won’t be suspended for Game 1 against Cavaliers 22
- PBT Extra: Can Clippers build on Game 6 win? 2
- PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Derrick Rose got it done on both ends in first round 2
- Hawks eliminate Nets from playoffs with blowout victory in Game 6 9
- PBT Extra: Clash of styles favors Warriors over Grizzlies 4