COMMENTARY | The Oklahoma City Thunder are arguably the most dangerous scoring team in the NBA.
They get out and run with the best, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. However, their ability to score in the post doesn't stack up against the top teams in basketball and it is evident in Serge Ibaka's game.
Ibaka has grown throughout his first four years. He has become one of the league's foremost shot blockers. He has developed an 18-foot jumper that works perfect with Westbrook in the pick-and-pop. He has even become a corner three-point threat off the drive-and-dish.
However, after signing a four-year, $48 million contract extension last August, Ibaka hasn't fully lived up to his potential. In fact, his lack of post offense and inability to pull down rebounds makes him the Thunder's most overrated player and the NBA's most overrated $12 million man at this point in his career.
Ibaka hasn't performed like Tim Duncan, Al Horford or Joakim Noah, but he is set to make more than each player in 2013-2014. Ibaka will also make just under Tony Parker's salary in 2014-2015 and more than Steph Curry. $12 million is a lot for a 6-foot-10 power forward who hasn't averaged eight rebounds per game in four seasons, two as a starter and hasn't developed much at all on the block.
No doubt Ibaka is a developmental player with freakish athletic ability. At 23 he has already led the league in blocks twice and has competed in the Slam Dunk Contest. However, his athleticism has quickly jumped to the top of his developmental process with fundamentals and post presence taking a back seat.
The source of Ibaka's offensive evils is the 18-foot jump shot he developed last offseason. It is deadly, but at times he uses it too much. There are situations when the Thunder would benefit from Ibaka positioning himself for a rebound rather than sitting at the top of the key or standing in the corner waiting for a three.
When do we ever see Tim Duncan standing in the corner waiting for a three?
We don't, which is the point.
Ibaka has fallen in love with his jumper when he should be falling in love with a fundamental post move or two. He's worked on the wrong part of his game and is now set to make $12 million without a single, decent post maneuver and without knowing how to position himself for the most success on the block.
There is also no reason a 6-foot-10; 235-pound athletic freak should pull down less than eight rebounds per game, especially at 23 years old.
Most of it is positioning. There are times when Ibaka is nowhere near the right position to pull down boards, offensively or defensively. There are also times when Ibaka is protecting the rim so much he becomes a non-factor on the glass. Either way, something has to give.
Sam Presti and the Thunder are not paying Ibaka over $12 million per year to average less rebounds than Durant. He has to work his way into the post more and find a way to pull down more rebounds. Even if that means giving up on perimeter positioning or giving up on a few block attempts.
Another reason Ibaka has to step it up on the glass is Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins is obviously not a rebounding center. He's a dirty work center. He's the guy who clears the paint with box-outs and frees up space for Ibaka and Durant to crash the glass. If Perkins is asked to play the dirty work role, Ibaka has to be able to clean up.
Ibaka also has to understand his role in the Thunder's offense.
There is no need for him to stand in the corner with his hands up, ready to knock down a three. The Thunder have plenty of shooters, and they certainly do not have the size and strength like Ibaka.
He is only 23 years old and there is a learning curve with players who haven't tapped their potential. However, he has to understand he could be one of the league's biggest threats as a post-up four with the stretch four abilities to shoot. Not the other way around. In order to reach his potential he has to drift away from the perimeter and back down his opponent into the painted area.
The lack of the Thunder's post offense does not fall on Perkins' shoulders. Perkins is not an offensive player and hasn't been since high school. He is a player who plays his role and does the work to free up offense for the other four players on the court.
Ibaka's role should be the Thunder's post presence and the Thunder's best rebounder. He should be pulling in the rebounds and pouring in the points in the paint Perkins can't. Ibaka's abilities allow him to, Perkins' do not. The difference between the two however, is Perkins understands his role and Ibaka has yet to fully grasp his.
If there is a player on the Thunder's roster who can push them over the edge and into a championship it is Serge Ibaka. If he develops into the $48 million player he will be paid to be, the Thunder could hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy. But if he doesn't, there won't be any parades in downtown Oklahoma City anytime soon.
Trey Hunter lives in Oklahoma City and has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder with media credentials since 2011. He has been published on Hoops Addict and SB Nation. You can follow him on Twitter: @TreyHunter87 .
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