Who's better: Gasol or Ibaka?

Two of the playoffs' best young big men do battle in our head-to-head matchup

Updated: May 6, 2011, 4:51 PM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
Marc Gasol/Serge IbakaNBAE/Getty ImagesMarc Gasol has an efficient offensive game, while Serge Ibaka dominates on D.

In this space we'll break down the best individual matchup of the week to see who's the better player. But toss out career accomplishments or potential. This is about ability -- strengths, weaknesses, intangibles -- and who gives his team the best chance to win. It's about the only thing that matters when you step on the court on any given night -- who's better right now.

The playoffs are a stage meant for the brightest superstars to shine. But sometimes an opportunistic young player authors a spotlight-stealing performance and uses the postseason as a springboard to the next level. That's exactly what has happened this year with fast-rising bigs Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Each is playing a breakout role as their respective teams battle it out in the Western Conference semifinals. For most of his career, Gasol has operated in the long shadow cast by his older brother, two-time world champion Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol. In just his second season, Ibaka is turning heads with his electrifying shot-blocking skills and redline playing style. As their teams fight for a spot in the conference finals, there's no better time for these two emerging stars to face off in our head-to-head comparison. As always, the question is: "Who's better?"

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine