The Other Guys: Serge Ibaka
The Toronto Raptors have had a dominant season. After defeating the New York Knicks 128-92 Monday night, the team becomes the second squad to 50 wins in the Association. Toronto has won their games by an average margin of 5.5, and they hold the best winning percentage against teams below .500 at 32-4.
The team has two perennial All-Stars in Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, the likely Most Improved Player of the Year in Pascal Siakam, a championship pedigree in Danny Green and the veteran presence and skill of Marc Gasol in the middle.
However, there is another player that gets big minutes for the Raptors who has faded into the background of his team’s success. That is until he took a running punch at Marquese Chriss.
Serge Ibaka is in the midst of his third season with the Raptors, and it’s quietly been his best since joining the team in the 2016-17 season.
Ibaka is averaging 15.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 blocks and 0.4 steals a game. He’s tied for his career high in points; his second best rebounding season and his highest ever assist tally.
Serge is pairing his career high offensive statistics with a 52.2% field goal percentage, which is his most efficient firing rate since he opened up his offensive game in the 2012-13 season.
Even more importantly Ibaka has dialed back on his three point happy mentality, which has plagued him over the past few seasons. He’s shooting an atrocious 26% from the behind the three point line, but he’s only shooting a measly 2.3 a game. A number way down from his totals of 3.9, 4.5 and 3.8 in the previous three seasons.
In fact, according to Cleaningtheglass.com, Ibaka ranks in the 46th percentile in three point shot frequency at his power forward position. Juxtaposed with his 74th, 83rd and 75th percentile ranking in the three seasons before hand.
Furthermore, Ibaka has actually been ultra accurate in the shots he is taking. Ranking in the 92nd percentile in long mid range jump shots at 51%, and in the 91st percentile of accuracy from all mid range shots.
Ibaka’s proximity to the basket has also helped with his offensive rebounding. The big man is averaging 2.1 a game, which is his highest rate since the 2014-15 season.
The Raptors have never needed Ibaka to be a three-point shooter for the team to succeed. The 11th year pro out of Brazzaville, Congo has gotten back to what he does best this season, and Toronto is reaping the benefits.
The play of Serge Ibaka has been stellar this campaign and he might just be an under the radar player that decides the Raptors fate in a packed Eastern Conference playoff bracket.
*Stats accurate as of 3-19-19