The All-Star break is one of the more anticipated events of the NBA season. From the Dunk Contest to the All-Star game, thousands tune in to see their favorite players perform.
However, it also allows the analysis of performance as well. The halfway point through the season is a great benchmark when measuring improvement, as players can perform better or worse as the date passes. All-Star weekend isn't for another few weeks, but an early diagnosis of Serge Ibaka can't hurt.
The defensive forward has made strides in terms of improving his all-around game this season. His total averages for last season balance out at 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per contest. He shot 53.5 percent, with 66.1 from the line, attempting 7.4 shots in 27.2 minutes. Ibaka kept out of foul trouble with 2.7 per game—an area he previously had trouble with.
Thus far, Ibaka has elevated his overall numbers. His 13.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks don't tell the whole story, though, as only his scoring has jumped to the naked eye. His attempts have increased to 10.5, which can be directly relative to his increased playing time at 32.5 a game. However, a further breakdown of his offense shows much more.
Last season, Ibaka shot 80-of-188 from the mid-range area. That translates to a percentage of 43, which isn't stellar, but he got away with it having Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as the primary scorers. Almost at the middle of the season, Ibaka has upped that to 103-of-213 at 48 percent.
He has showcased his offensive improvement all season, already posting five 20-point games compared to last season's minute one. Ibaka's development of a mid-range jumper has pushed him to the next echelon of forwards, as he is no longer a one-way, shot-blocking forward/center. With the addition of a post-game, a comparison to Miami's Chris Bosh wouldn't be overly exaggerated.
Has Ibaka improved?
Okay, maybe a little. Putting Ibaka next to Bosh is a stretch, but his strides in improvement have given OKC the luxury of a stretch forward. He can space the floor for driving lanes, which gives Westbrook and Durant even more freedom on offense than they already had. The comparison could be labelled "premature", should Ibaka continue his personal amelioration.
With a few more shots per game, Ibaka could certainly average 18 points, 8.5 rebounds and three blocks. Place that alongside Bosh's 17.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks and the comparison could certainly be viable down the stretch. If Ibaka can take that next step, he would be in the running for votes as an All-Star reserve; something he dabbled with this season. Even more improvement, and it would make the 6'10" forward a lock for such rewards.
All statistics sourced from nba.com/stats