COLUMN: Ibaka's increased offense will put Thunder over the top
Everybody agrees the Oklahoma City Thunder is a legitimate title contender this season.
The reasons given for this vary, but they often revolve around praising the play of forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook, and rightfully so.
However, there is another major factor in the Thunder’s ability to compete that often gets forgotten: this season’s emergence of forward Serge Ibaka on offense.
Ibaka has developed into an impressive all-around player — someone who is a double-double threat every single night.
He is quietly averaging 13.8 points per game, along with team-leading stats in rebounds and blocks, with 8.1 and 2.9 per game, respectively.
Ibaka has long been one of the most respected defenders in the league, especially in regards to his fearsome shot-blocking ability, but he really is coming into his own on the offensive end of the court this season.
His 13.8 points per game is not a shabby number at all, especially considering the amount of offensive talent sharing the floor with him at any given time.
Durant is probably the best pure scorer in the entire league, and one of the best of all time. Westbrook is one of the very best offensive point guards in the league, and reserve guard Kevin Martin is an incredible spot-up shooter who also creates offense better than people give him credit for.
Between these juggernauts of scoring, it is extremely difficult for anyone else to carve out many points for themselves.
Because of this fact, Ibaka’s accomplishments this season are made much more impressive.
He's played a massive part in filling the scoring void left by the departure of 2011-2012 Sixth Man of the Year, guard James Harden.
It’s easy to forget that Harden averaged 16.8 points per game last season, only three more points per game than Ibaka is putting up this year.
Many people often credit Martin for filling Harden’s shoes this season, especially given that they both play the same role on the team, sixth-man shooting guard.
However, the reason the Thunder hasn’t skipped a beat in its quest for consecutive Western Conference championships is the continued development of Ibaka.
It’s easy to praise Durant, Westbrook and Martin; they are doing exactly what they should be doing.
But that consistency is exactly why Ibaka should be getting more attention for his great season.
Durant, Westbrook and Martin being elite offensive players is old news. But Ibaka joining them at the top of the scoring sheet is an exciting new development that will push the Thunder, and their season, to new heights.