Outside of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka — who’s out of the Western Conference Finals with a calf injury — is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s most important player.
His importance is even more pronounced against the San Antonio Spurs.
In the four regular season games San Antonio this year, the OKC defence has been dramatically better with Ibaka on the floor.
As Royce Young of Daily Thunder points out, the Spurs scored 120.8 points per 100 possessions when Ibaka was on the bench, compared to just 93.0 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court.
In chart form:
The sample size is small (a 37.8-point per 100 possession difference is bigger than the difference between the best defensive team in the league and the worst defensive team in the league in 2013-14), but the point is that Ibaka matters.
His versatility and rim protection are irreplaceable. He’s the only OKC defender who can guard Tim Duncan one possession and Kawhi Leonard the next possession. He also prevents Tony Parker from attacking the basket and collapsing the entire defence off the dribble.
A fully healthy Oklahoma City would be the favourite in this series. They have gotten the better of the Spurs since their series in 2012. The Ibaka injury changes everything, assuming he really is gone until next year.
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