Is Serge Ibaka Oklahoma City Thunder's next star?
The Quick Hit: It’s easy to overlook Serge Ibaka.
After all, the Oklahoma City Thunder is loaded with young stars: Kevin Durant is becoming an elite player; recently Russell Westbrook has shown the skill-set of a top table-setter; Jeff Green, in typical Georgetown Hoya fashion, is tough as nails; and James Harden has the makings of a smart, efficient scorer.
However, Ibaka will soon join this blue-chip core. And, in my mind, this giant from the Congo highlights the two greatest strengths of the Thunder’s organization:
First, he’s young and athletic –just like his team. Consider Friday’s game against the Raptors. Using their superior energy and quickness, Oklahoma City forced Toronto into 19 turnovers and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. Not surprisingly, they won in a laugher.
Of course, in the victory Ibaka introduced himself to Canada with a highlight jam that had The Big Smoke (Toronto) buzzing. In one smooth, acrobatic, and graceful motion, the twenty-one year old rebounded an awkward Durant miss and had enough hang-time to throw down a viscous two-handed dunk over Raptor glue-guy Amir Johnson.
(Ibaka saying hello to Canada.)
Second, Ibaka is another example of Thunder GM Sam Presti’s genius. The former San Antonio Spurs intern took a slight chance drafting a European club player –albeit, one who came from Africa- based on his remarkable physical skill. Instead of rushing him to the NBA after the draft, the organization allowed Ibaka to spend another year developing in Europe.
(Ibaka's journey from the Congo to Spain.)
Clearly, it was the right decision. In Europe, there’s an emphasis on practice, which was perfect for the raw post. And Ibaka is showing flashes of his potential and, with that extra year of pro ball under his belt, seems destined for bigger things in the future.
Soon, it will be difficult to overlook Ibaka. His success is a testament to the Thunder organization.
Get at us with thoughts on Ibaka’s upside? Photo courtesy of Serge Ibaka.