Serge Ibaka agreed to extend his rookie contract, reportedly, by four more years and $48 million. It’s a well-deserved extension for Ibaka, not for the mediocre stats he’s posted thus far that aren’t blocks, but for the huge upside at 22-years-old Ibaka still possesses, the work ethic he displays to reach that potential, and of course, the dominating defensive presence that’s already here.
Ibaka played limited minutes his three years in the NBA with a career-high 27.2 per last season. However, he’s led the league in total blocks the past two seasons (198 and 241, respectively) and blocks average last season (3.7), finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He finished with 59 blocks in 20 postseason games this year and had 52 in 17 games the previous postseason.
There’s no questioning that Ibaka produces the rejection numbers, but he also alters a bevy of shot attempts that don’t show up in the boxscore. Offensively, there is room for improvement, as with any young player, but there’s some nice signs there. For example, in comparison to his NBA Finals counterpart at the four, Chris Bosh (115, 109), an established 20-point scorer, Ibaka (119, 113) actually finished with a higher Offensive Rating the past two seasons since he’s been a starter.
That said, while there is some promise offensively, Serge Ibaka can only hope to be the fourth option when on the floor with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Speaking of Harden, another Oklahoma City Thunder player available for an extension, what does the Ibaka signing meaning for him? The Thunder, a small-market team, would rather not go above the luxury tax threshold, but may have no choice if the franchise wants to keep the recent gold medal recipient and NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
If the Thunder are serious about being long-term contenders, they must do what they have to to keep Harden, a versatile guard that, despite his NBA Finals performance, shows up in the clutch. While that still remains to be seen, the franchise is on the right track by locking up Serge Ibaka because he’s the type of player that will help a team win titles.