Serge Ibaka makes the leap

Already a defensive force, OKC's big man now has a major offensive profile

Updated: March 5, 2013, 4:22 PM ET
By Joe Kaiser | ESPN Insider
Serge IbakaBrett Deering/Getty ImagesSerge Ibaka's evolving offensive game might someday match his defensive prowess.

There's no mystery regarding Serge Ibaka's primary role on an Oklahoma City Thunder team that runs the offense through its two stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Ibaka is the rim-protector, the heart and soul of the defense. And at age 23, he's already established himself as one of the game's premier frontcourt defenders, leading the league last season in blocks per game (3.65) and ranking second this season (2.9) behind only Milwaukee's Larry Sanders (3.2).

But it wouldn't be accurate to pigeonhole Ibaka strictly as a "defender" anymore, because he's emerged as a very talented and even reliable offensive player in his fourth season in the league (Tuesday night's indiscretion notwithstanding). In terms of raw counting stats, he's increased his scoring average to nearly 14 points a game, up from 9.1 in 2011-12. His "perfect" game in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals last season certainly offered a glimpse of his emerging offense, but where exactly has that improvement been most evident in a season where mere glimpses have turned into routine production?

Let's look at the different areas where Ibaka has become particularly strong, some of which will surprise you.

Joe Kaiser

Fantasy, Insider