The development of Serge Ibaka's shooting range has been nothing short of astounding. Within the span of three years, Ibaka has gone from a "do not step outside the paint" offensive player, to a solid jump shooter, to an above average three point shooting power forward. Within one season, he has increased his three point attempts by three shots a game and has gotten his 3PT% up to 40.6%, ranking him second among power forwards.
While there are plenty of reasons to support Serge's new, profound love for the long range bomb, of course there are some reasons to be afraid.
It is always great to have a big man who can step out and hit a three. The Mavericks were able to salvage an NBA championship lead by a floor stretching big. Heck, even the Hawks almost took down the Pacers in the first round thanks to Pero Antic and his ability to draw out Roy Hibbert from the paint.
Any big that can knock down a shot can be beneficial, but not in all cases all of the time.
In Serge's case, there are too many deficiencies that have come with his new three point range. We are witnessing an evolving Serge Ibaka, one that relies more on the three than anything else.
This season, the big man has taken more threes than Dirk, Manu Ginobili, and Carmelo Anthony....that just doesn't seem right.
It seems as though Scott Brooks has been giving Serge the green light to shoot whenever he sees fit, but clearly, Ibaka has yet to learn a thing or two about shot selection.
In the clip above, Westbrook skips the ball up to Ibaka to commence the play, or lack thereof. Despite the few feet of shooting space, there are a few hints to note.
1. The shot clock
There are 18 seconds left on the shot clock by the time Ibaka releases his stroke. 18 seconds. That's enough time to run through a well-executed play in which the ball gets into the hands of the main scorer (Durant/Westbrook).
2. The score
At this point in the game, OKC is down just 3 to the Cavaliers, so why rush a three pointer? Why not drive and dish, or try to get the ball down in the paint to Perkins who was being guarded by Kevin Love? Why not feed the ball back to Westbrook, run a pick and pop (or roll) and get an open jump shot or mismatch? All these possibilities and scoring opportunities were ruined due to Ibaka's decision to take a quick three when one was certainly not needed.
3. Better options
As Serge enters his stroke, he attracts Kevin Durant's man. He is one pass away from getting the ball in Durant's hands. By my understanding, Kevin Durant is a pretty deadly shooter. Get the ball in his hands!
The disappearance of his mid-range
In the first shot chart, it is clear to see that more green fills the key while in the second, the dots are dispersed.
Last season, the mid-range jump shot was Serge Ibaka's bread and butter. On a consistent basis, he was able to step out between 15-19 ft and knock down mid-range jumper. Now this season, Ibaka has been shooting 40.7% from that range, a step down from his 45% clip from last year.
His post game has even deteriorated a bit. Last season, he shot 67.2% at the basket. This season, that number has dipped down to 59.4%, a pathetic percentage for a big man as explosive as Serge Ibaka. He's taken more threes than mid-range shots.
Like I stated before, a big man that can hit an outside shot can be one of the most valuable pieces on a team...if they can do their job. And that is not me saying "Ibaka doesn't hit his shots", that is me saying Ibaka doesn't space the floor. A defender sure as hell wouldn't leave Dirk Nowitzki open on the three point line. You know what that results in? Easy buckets. But for some reason, defenders have no problem leaving Ibaka open.
In the clip, one of the league's best and smartest defenders, Draymond Green, leaves Serge to help on the Westbrook drive.
The simple truth is Serge doesn't create a lot of gravity. He doesn't draw his defender out of the paint, which makes him useless at times. He is better off playing to his strengths with a mid-range shot (a higher percentage shot). Leave the floor spacing to guys like Dion Waiters and Anthony Morrow.
Don't fret just yet.
In the last match versus the Timberwolves, we saw some old Serge Ibaka. He took just three 3-pointers and six mid-range jumpers. Not to mention his 13 point, 19 rebound stat clip. There seems to be a predictable correlation between Ibaka's three point attempts and offensive rebounds. His four best offensive rebounding games have been when he only shot 3 threes or less. So when Ibaka isn't floating around the arc looking for a shot, he can be an empowering force on the offensive boards.
Now, I am not discouraging Serge to step out and shoot a three here and there. I think his new range can be somewhat beneficial if he is coached correctly. Scott Brooks doesn't seem to have a problem with Ibaka's new love when it is clearly detrimental. If he can learn portion control and when to shoot, he can be a huge helpful on offense.