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.
Jul 26, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Kevin Durant is the perfect international power forward anyway.
Jul 26, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Looks like tons of fun.
Jul 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
The way the Kings handled this lets them keep Quincy Acy.
Jul 26, 2014, 10:14 AM EDT
With trade talks ongoing, Love can’t afford to risk injury.
Jul 26, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Making sure Kobe Bryant is happy in his final two seasons in Los Angeles seems to be at the top of the list.
Jul 26, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Harden seems to backtrack a bit on comments Chandler Parsons took offense to.
Jul 26, 2014, 12:01 AM EDT
Players asked Adam Silver for for an extended break when he first took office. He seems to be listening.
Jul 25, 2014, 10:46 PM EDT
Anthony reportedly strongly considered the Lakers too, but he says that wasn’t really the case.
Jul 25, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT
The union for the players continues to struggle to get some competent leadership in place.
Jul 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Come on, son.
Jul 25, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Joakim Noah continues to be brutally honest when speaking about his team’s competition.
Jul 25, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT
The Andrew Wiggins spin and dunk is a thing of beauty.
Jul 25, 2014, 5:59 PM EDT
Casspi ends up back with the Kings on a minimum salary deal.
Jul 25, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT
He is a solid backup to have while Dennis Schroder develops.
Jul 25, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Magic rookie shows off handles
Jul 25, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT
Will Cherry was fun to watch at Las Vegas Summer League.
Jul 25, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT
George Karl is a better coach than Byron Scott
Jul 25, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT
Finally. Job has been vacant since April 30.
Jul 25, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT
Knicks’ record last season: 37-45
Melo’s contract value: $124,064,681
Jul 25, 2014, 1:11 PM EDT
Bulls also must make room for Nikola Mirotic in frontcourt
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