We’ve been ranking the Thunder roster, 1-15. Each day we’ve revealed a new ranking and a player. We’d enjoy your feedback by using the hashtag “#ThunderRank” on Facebook or Twitter. PS: Grant Jerrett is ineligible for the list due to he remains unsigned with the Thunder.
#3 – Serge Ibaka
The fact that Serge Ibaka is the third best player on the Thunder’s roster is a true testament to the talent Sam Presti has found and pieced together. As a 24th overall pick, the Thunder have found something really special in the man they call Air Congo.
You have to think opposing players shudder on nights they have to meet Ibaka in the lane. Last season Ibaka averaged 3.0 blocks a games, making him the league leader in blocked shots for the second season in a row. Ibaka was also named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for his second straight year. Let that sink in again: the third best player on the Thunder is an elite NBA defender and arguably the best shot blocker in the world.
You have to like Ibaka’s obvious improvement on the other end of the court as well. The defensive powerhouse has steadily improved his offensive game over the years. Last season Ibaka’s scoring overage was up 4 points per game from the previous year. Averaging 13.2 ppg, Serge also bumped up his field goal percentage to an impressive 57.3 percent.
Along with more activity on the offensive end, Serge also added a new weapon; a three point shot. Only converting on 35.1 percent of his shots beyond the arc, Serge does need to improve his accuracy but adds a new wrinkle to the Thunder’s options. If Ibaka can continue to develop his offensive game inside and out, OKC will continue to be harder to matchup against.
We have seen Westbrook and Durant come back from trials and rough patches, but I can’t remember a time that Serge had such significant growing pains as last year’s playoffs. After missing a tip in shot in Game 4 of the first round, Ibaka’s confidence was shattered. Serge shot just 43.7 percent in the playoffs; down almost 14 percent from the regular season and the worst of his career.
I don’t expect the playoffs to carry over, though. In fact, Serge has done nothing for us not to expect more improvement. Recently at Thunder Media Day Ibaka mentioned that he had been working this summer on creating his own shot, putting the ball on the floor, and his post moves. I don’t think that it’s too far fetched to believe Ibaka could one day be known as much for his offense as his defense.
At #3 on the Thunder Rank, Serge is no surprise. What would be a surprise though, is if Ibaka closed the gap between himself and the #2 ranked player. The potential is there, but Serge has narrowly missed being an All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year multiple times. Don’t think for a second he has forgotten that. Work ethic is what has turned Serge Ibaka in the Oklahoma City’s third best player, and that same attitude is what will create the growth we hope to see from him this season.
Here’s a recap of the #ThunderRank to this point:
- #4 – Thabo Sefolosha
- #5 - Nick Collison
- #6 - Reggie Jackson
- #7 - Jeremy Lamb
- #8 - Kendrick Perkins
- #9 - Derek Fisher
- #10 - Perry Jones III
- #11 - Hasheem Thabeet
- #12 - Steven Adams
- #13 - Ryan Gomes
- #14 - Daniel Orton
- #15 - Andre Roberson