This preseason has lead to Serge Ibaka's emergence as a fan favorite. He brings an excitement to the paint that Thunder fans haven't seen. While Ibaka brings excitement and powerful blocks, where does this put the more experienced D.J. White?
As most Thunder fans know, D.J. White missed most of last season recovering from a benign growth on his jaw. White did appear in seven games at the end of last season, and averaged 8.9 PTS, 4.6 Rbs, and .7 blocks. This is a solid line for any bench player, and a more than impressive one for someone like White.
Both players bring something that Oklahoma City needs, and that's strength down low. They are, however, vastly different players.
Ibaka is raw, to say the least. He's quick and strong, but his inexperience leads to needless fouls. He has committed 21 personal fouls this preseason. Only one other Thunder player, Jeff Green, has committed as many fouls. Green has played close to double the minutes Ibaka has played. Ibaka has shown that he can learn the game quickly, though. His help defense has improved, but the little things will continue to plague him this season.
White is a more refined player than Ibaka, but is a bit of an unknown to most. He was the Big 10 player of the year in his last year at Indiana. He knows the game, and is a physical player in the paint. Where Ibaka goes for the block, White is a battle for position and get the rebound kind of player. Since coaches are trying to evaluate Ibaka, White hasn't seen much time on the floor this preseason.
There is a bit of a log jam at Power Forward this season for Oklahoma City. Jeff Green will be the starter until someone can prove that they are more able to play the Four. If this ever happens, Green can shift over to Small Forward and become a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Nick Collison's natural position is the Power Forward. He saw a lot of time at center last season, because OKC didn't have anyone better at the position. Collison has been coined the "glue-guy" for the Thunder, and his rebounding ability will keep him in the rotation. Etan Thomas, acquired this Summer in a trade with Minnesota, could see time at the Four this season, also. He has emerged as the team's "muscle" this preseason.
That leaves Ibaka and White competing for scrapes behind these four guys. Will the coaches go with the steady White? Or the potentially explosive Ibaka?
Picture from YahooSports! and Stats from NBA.com