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.
Apr 21, 2014, 3:49 AM EDT
Houston point guard to have MRI Monday
Apr 21, 2014, 2:32 AM EDT
Aldridge set a Blazers record with 46 points in a playoff game. Nene reminded everyone why he
Apr 21, 2014, 2:29 AM EDT
Aldridge scores 46 points, grabs 18 rebounds to lead comeback
Apr 20, 2014, 10:02 PM EDT
Nene gets his first start since February and the Wizards steal Game 1.
Apr 20, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Kemba Walker made James Jones look bad.
Apr 20, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT
Bobcats were scrappy, but with Al Jefferson hurting Miami just had too much LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Apr 20, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT
Touching moment as Gregg Popovich delivers a heartfelt message.
Apr 20, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT
Spurs close the game on a 19-4 run after trailing by double digits.
Apr 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Statement confirms referees handled replay review correctly, but also admits that they missed the initial foul call on a critical possession.
Apr 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
If Jim Buss fails to deliver in quickly rebuilding the Lakers, he says he’ll resign.
Apr 20, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Roy Hibbert owned up to a poor Game 1. Will he do anything about it in Game 2 is the question.
Apr 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Shot clocks stopped working midway through the third quarter, but Raptors say all will be well in time for Game 2.
Apr 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Where you going, Evan?
Apr 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
“That’s what I do!”
Apr 20, 2014, 12:44 AM EDT
OKC led by as many as 25 points in the first half.
Apr 19, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
Roy Hibbert wasn’t good in Game 1 against the Hawks, and this play epitomized his performance.
Apr 19, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT
The eight-seed Hawks blowout the Pacers in Game 1.
Apr 19, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Blake Griffin totally did this on purpose.
Apr 19, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT
Warriors steal Game 1 in Los Angeles.
Apr 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
It looked good as soon as it left his hands.
- Sunday NBA grades: Nene, Aldridge lead day where big men shine 0
- LaMarcus Aldridge’s Trail Blazers claw back for Game 1 win over Houston Rockets 3
- Bulls have no answer for Nene as Wizards take Game 1 12
- Charlotte is scrappy but Heat have too much in comfortable 99-88 win 18
- Spurs use huge 4th quarter run to come back and win Game 1 vs. Mavericks 8