Friday, October 5th, 2012 at 3:07 pm  |  18 responses

Top 50: Serge Ibaka, no. 43

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Cub Buenning / @cubbuenning

Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager Sam Presti must be a very happy man. Roster-wise, the young leader has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal and the most rabid fan base in the entire League. A grouping of players who have made yearly progress—going from an early round exit, to the Western Conference Finals to the NBA Finals last spring.

The ceiling for this team might just be determined by two other teams—the Miami Heat and that “Frankenstein” project being put together at the Staples Center. Unfortunately for the 36-year-old Presti, he doesn’t have the “Scrooge McDuck” pile of money, which would allow him to rightfully reimburse his talented employees like some of his contemporaries are able to do.

After consecutive offseasons where the team locked down their two prime stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it was only a matter of time. It would inevitably be just a season or two before the other emerging youthful players starting demanding big-time money. James Harden and Serge Ibaka, like Durant and Westbrook, were still south of the 25-year-old mark and were blossoming right alongside the team’s brightest luminaries. It was just a matter of time before dollar signs, luxury taxes thresholds and max-contracts began rearing their ugly heads. The optimistic future of the franchise would surely be jeopardized. It was bound to “break up the band.”

In a (not surprising) forward-thinking move, Presti started the negotiations with Ibaka first when most thought that Harden was the piece that needed the most immediate financial attention.

But it was Ibaka who has been the most important “other” alongside KD and Russ. It was Ibaka who made their up-tempo offensive attack flow when he was able to knock down the open 16-footer. It was Ibaka who gave the Thunder even a shred of defensive backbone and an active presence on the offensive glass. It was Ibaka who gave this team of slashing, athletic dynamos that “other” dimension.

It wasn’t Harden.

Harden was the backcourt compliment on the wing to Durant and on-the-ball to Westbrook. The 6-10, 235-pounder was the tough rebound in traffic. Ibaka was the intimidation. He was the grit on a team that preferred to do far more running and gunning than setting up in the half-court and grinding out possessions.

As the Thunder scramble to make the finances work to keep all four, Serge Ibaka readies himself for another training camp in peace. This year’s training camp grind eased with the freshly minted four-year extension at roughly $12 million per season. Just a month removed from representing his adopted country of Spain in the London Olympics, the native of the Republic of Congo is set in more ways than one. A new deal in place and a bright future on a franchise set for long-term success.

When individual and team success meet at the same spot, it generally leads to professional contentment. The small mid-western capital city in the state of Oklahoma just might have something on Disneyland.

Happiest place on earth, you say?

Where should Serge Ibaka rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Good write up Cub!

  • LakeShow

    Hmm, not sure if I like him this high… Depends on his improvement this year. His rebounds, points, FT%, FG%, TOV all were worst than his previous season. Blocks are primarily the only place he advanced. I don’t see him swatting over 3.5 a night again next year. I could be wrong though.
    Not to sure about this placement though.

  • danpowers

    his fg% decreased a little because he expanded his range. even if u shoot a relatively high % from midrange the overall fg% will go a bit down compared to just taking inside shots / dunks / layups. he also improved his overall defensive efficiency, which was very important to the thunder as written by cub. (his defensive rating increased from an avarage 104 in 10/11 to an outstanding 98 in 11/12) i think his slight decrease in rebounding was just because he played a whole season next to perkins. so the only negative aspects are more or less the turnovers and the ft%.

  • nick

    The write up didn’t include stats for a reason……haha…

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    What counts is the crunch… and Ibaka had some good games leading up to the finals, I remember a 10 shot streak in a quarter, or something like that where he was knocking down jumpers bang bang. I thought OKC was gonna win it all. I hadn’t seen Harden produce much and I waited to see something (I’m talking about the finals) but ALL of OKC failed… to a battle hardened Miami team. Good ranking SLAM

  • J.C.

    Oh, does that mean Harden isn’t making the Top 50 then?

  • Drig

    I think I’m gonna get some slack for this but why the hell is Big Al not above Ibaka??? Ibaka’s better at D while Big Al is better at O. Both aren’t all rounders and one guy has actually proved he can be the guy on the team and be good at it. Seriously, I want to know one reason other than he’s on OKC and he’s had more team success last year.

  • ctkennedy

    Too high …dont avg. 10pts or 10boards…his blocks n ways is overrated ..he always outta position..n avg at best n man to man D goes for every pump fake…he has tools on him so do TyrusThomas ..lol

  • spitt hot fiyah

    ehi defence alone he probably desrvese a spot on this list. I dont think his offensive numbers Will improve too much due to theway okc runs theireir offence with three guys doing the bulk of shooting and righfully so

  • spit hot fiyah

    wrote that on my phone

  • Hursty

    I’m becoming increasingly concerned that Carlos Boozer ‘is’ going to be on the list somewhere. I’ll relax once it gets to about 37-40. But those other 3 spots.. urgh.
    I know this post doesn’t have anything to do with Boozer, but I’m gonna be irked if he makes it on, with Rose out the first 2 months, people are expecting an increased output from him.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Al Jefferson doesn’t help his team win like Ibaka does….he puts up stats but they are empty stats.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I gotta cosign the majority of this

  • Drig

    I’d be surprised to see Ibaka come close to having the same impact as Al J on Utah or “help them win” with his game man. Ibaka can’t pass ( just like Al J ), Ibaka doesn’t have a post game, Ibaka goes up for every pump fake and Ibaka hasn’t shown that he can create for himself or set his teammates up at times. Al J has many problems guarding guys just as big as him and those who are bigger. Both of them have their own flaws and earn their contracts mostly on the basis of their production on one end of the court. But come on, as far as ability-skills and effectiveness goes, Al J is the better individual player, which is what this list is about right?

  • danpowers

    being of the same opinion with you starts to become a habit. we need a new melo article soon lol

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    As good as Jefferson seems offensive he still shoots 18 shots to score his 20 points. And he’s a bonfire of garbage on defense.

  • Tom.s

    He is becoming the most frekish shot-blocker to ever play, the man swatted one in ten shots last season, that is rediculous! But, he is still learing to stay on the floor and becoming a better overall defender. I do not think he is better then Al Jefferson though, but he is going to be soon.

  • Gavin Manasco

    danpowers, I completely agree with you. He is a rising PF and is getting a lot better. Don’t forget about his 3 ball though…