Sebastian Pruiti has been examining the play of Serge Ibaka, who was recently nationalized by Spain in order to be allowed to compete for the Spanish National Team. Spain just played France, and Pruiti has some breakdown of Ibaka's game.
Pruiti does a great job looking at Ibaka's mechanics and how that for right now, it all comes down to whether or not Ibaka is feeling rushed. If he is relaxed, his prodigious talent takes over. If he feels like he has to go early, Ibaka is more prone to careless mistakes.
A few more comments after the jump.
- Aside from dunking the ball, Ibaka's greatest offensive strength last season was the jump shot from about 10 to 15 feet away, preferably at the elbows. When he was given the space to set his feet and elevate, his jumper at times seemed automatic. As Pruiti notes, Ibaka shoots an incredibly high percentage when he got this shot, and his play for Spain demonstrates a continuation of that trend.
- I grabbed the clip above because it looks strikingly familiar to something that Ibaka himself saw at the end of last season. Remember these? I like the patience he showed in sizing up his defender, Ronny Turiaf. When he finally felt he had Turiaf slightly off balance, Ibaka rose up for the short jumper.
- One move we began to see late in the season last year was what Ibaka did when his defender played him too tight for the outside shot. Ibaka began to show signs of a quick spin move that displayed adept footwork and a soft touch either from a jump shot or a jump hook. I think it would be wonderful if Ibaka began to study the nuances of Kevin Garnett's offense, because the two are very similar in their approach. Neither one wants to go to a straight power move (a la Zach Randolph) but instead both are looking for space via spins and pump fakes to shoot short fade-away shots. I can't wait to see Ibaka's continued development in this area.
- From a shooting fundamentals standpoint, it looks like Ibaka has shortened up his shooting mechanics a little bit, shooting the ball on the way up rather than at his jumping peak. In open space, this change should definitely help Ibaka squeeze off jumpers that will become more and more contested. However, in the post I think he still needs to learn what Garnett does in using his full length and shoot the ball high above his head.
- If I may continue to sound the gong, I believe that Ibaka's continued development as a post threat is the biggest and most underwritten facet of the Thunder's progression. They are predominantly a perimeter team that takes way too many 3-pointers. The more they are able to move the ball closer to the rim, the better off they will be. Not only does the Thunder have great finishers around the rim in Ibaka, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, but their offensive efficiency jumps way up when they can keep the ball within 18 feet of the rim. If they can build a secondary offensive flow that starts inside-out with Ibaka on the block, an incredible amount of spacing will develop for everybody.
- Ibaka, just like his teammates, needs time to build his game and learn how to play the game. He is in a good place now in Spain, where he is playing competitive basketball against other pros. He will get to where he needs to be, and I think it will be sooner rather than later.