Recently, the staff at SI.com have been ranking the top 100 players in the NBA. Today, writers Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney ranked players in the 21-30 range .Included in that list, was Thunder forward Serge Ibaka. Here’s what Ben Golliver had to say about Ibaka’s game and why he was ranked at number 29:
In his fourth season, his first without James Harden in the fold, Ibaka was asked to do more on the other end. Even though Kevin Martin stepped cleanly into the designated third scorer role, Ibaka saw his opportunities increase. He generally made the most of the open looks generated by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Ibaka averaged a career high in both points and field-goal percentage. An improved mid-range jumper, which he shoots well from the elbows and the baseline, made him a key part of Oklahoma City’s second-ranked offense. However, Ibaka, like Martin, crumbled a bit on offense during the playoffs once Westbrook was lost to a knee injury.
Ibaka’s play without Westbrook provided a nice frame of reference for judging his development. A very productive offensive rebounder since his rookie year, Ibaka has long feasted on second-chance opportunities and lob plays in the basket area. Last year, he showed the ability to be consistently effective from virtually everywhere inside the arc, as long as the heavy lifting of shot creation was done for him. Take away one of Ibaka’s table-setters and ask him to initiate more of his own looks, either in the block or facing up against a set defense, and things got more difficult (and his shooting numbers got less impressive). That he struggled a bit in uncharted territory was no surprise, and it shouldn’t drastically alter the general perception of him as one of the league’s best third wheels.
Landing at No. 29 on this list puts Ibaka roughly equidistant between some of the biggest names at his position — Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Miami’s Chris Bosh and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge — and an up-and-comer such as Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders, who makes similar waves on defense but hasn’t yet taken the next step on the offensive end. That’s exactly where he should be for now, but there’s really nothing stopping him from moving up to join the group of established All-Stars over the next few seasons.
Ibaka being ranked at number 29 is a surprise to some, as SI.com ranked Ibaka higher than Brook Lopez(30). If you look at the numbers, Ibaka possess a better field goal percentage, blocks, and rebounds per game than Lopez. Other power forwards ahead of Ibaka in the 21-30 range are Kevin Garnett, Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert, Al Horford, and Joakim Noah.
Hopefully, in two years we will be discussing Ibaka being a top 15 player in this league. If, in fact, he can develop more of an offensive game and have the ability to score 15 to 20 points a game.