A look back: Serge Ibaka’s block parties in the early 2010s

Toronto Raptors veteran Serge Ibaka has blossomed into the new prototypical big man. He can stretch the floor with his shooting, occasionally put the ball on the floor and be a good, versatile defender.

But earlier in his career, Ibaka was known for primarily one aspect of hoops: shot blocking.

Ibaka started his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder and was selected No. 24 overall in the 2008 NBA draft.

A two-time blocks champion, Ibaka is the Thunder’s/Seattle SuperSonics’ all-time leader in blocks (1,300). He ranks second among active players in total blocks, per NBA.com stats. He’s ranked 29th all-time, right behind Boston Celtics legend Kevin McHale.

A key player on the reigning champion Raptors, Ibaka had his top statistical seasons blocking shots while in Oklahoma City.

During the 2011-12 campaign, Ibaka held down the interior for the Thunder. In the video above at 33 seconds, Ibaka had perhaps one of the best blocks of his career.

The Thunder were playing the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals. LeBron James was driving to the hoop, and Ibaka came over to help, skying to meet James at the rim. He prevented one of James’ signature posterizing dunks, and the Thunder gained possession.

That season was arguably Ibaka’s best as a rim protector. He averaged a career-high 3.7 blocks per game, and he’s tied for the highest single-season blocks average in the 2010s, per Basketball-Reference. 

Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside also posted 3.7 blocks a game during the 2015-16 season, when he was with the Miami Heat.

Ibaka’s defensive awareness, along with his athleticism, has made him such a quality rim protector. He regularly jumps straight up, reaching his apex to give himself the best chance to send shots away from the basket.

After the 2011-12 season, Ibaka continued his block parties. He averaged 3.0 blocks per game during the 2012-13 season, posting the second-highest average of his career. That season Ibaka showed more offensive development, as he had scored 13.2 points a game — it was the first time in his career he averaged double figures.

Ibaka’s blocks numbers have tailed off over the years, and before this season was put on pause, he was averaging a career-low 0.8 blocks.

Still, that’s in part because he has a larger offensive role. Ibaka has scored a career-high 16.0 points per game, and he has shot 39.8% from the 3-point line on 3.3 attempts. According to NBA.com stats, he ranks second on the Raptors in usage percentage (23.7%), right behind Pascal Siakam. Ibaka’s usage percentage is currently at the highest it’s been in his career.

With Ibaka’s role evolving over time, it’s a testament to basketball’s evolution. A floor-spacing big man who can defend multiple positions, Ibaka has ensured his value throughout his career.

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