On Serge Ibaka

And to clarify there, as I did in a follow-up tweet, Ennis is not the third prospect.  The prospects would be Harrell, McDaniels, and the draft pick.

Ibaka this year is shooting .385 on 3’s, hitting 1.5 per 3.9 attempts per game.  That’s up from last year’s 32%, but not too strong a deviation from the previous season’s .376.  What’s important to note is that while he is not elite e.g. Ryan Anderson (who is hitting an insane 2.8 3’s per game at 41%), Ibaka is at the least a credible threat from long-range, as we saw last night.  And that credibility is important, for an offense which bases itself upon floor spacing.

As has been well-documented, Ibaka has slipped drastically in other areas.  His total rebounding percentage is down to 12.4, down from a peak of 17.2 during his age 20 season in 2009-2010.  That rebounding percentage has steadily been trending downward.  Offensive rebounding percentage is down to a career low of 6.1, less than half of a career high percentage of 13.2 during his age 22 season in 2011-2012. However, defensive rebounding percentage is up to 19.1, up from 16.2 last season, and approaching his career high of 21.9 during his age 20 season of 2009-2010.

Blocked shots have taken a nosedive.  Per 36 minutes, Ibaka is averaging 1.9 blocked shots per game this year, the lowest figure of his career.  By comparison, in 2011-2012, during his age 22 season, Ibaka averaged 4.8 blocks with an insane block percentage of 9.8.  The block percentage now is at a career low of 4.2.

Ibaka is now number 36 in DRPM among power forwards, behind Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki.  Take that for what its worth.  He was 36 last year, fifth in 2014-2015, and sixth in 2013-2014.  That’s a steep drop-off.

Opponents are shooting 53.9% at the rim this season against Ibaka.  (They are shooting 49.2% against Clint Capela).  In 2015-2016, opponents shot 43.6% at the rim against Ibaka.  In 2014-2015, they shot 40.8%.  And in 2013-2014, they shot 45.1%

This is all to say that I am aware that Ibaka is not a savior and that there is a limit to what I would be willing to give up.  I am aware of his rather drastic decline, by the numbers.  This is all to say that I am aware that such a trade would likely be a rental.

Even in his current state, Ibaka represents an upgrade in this team’s frontcourt rotation.  He would provide a veteran presence and maybe more importantly, another outside shooting threat.  When the Rockets close, they could send out a lineup of Harden, Gordon, Anderson, one of either Beverley or Ariza, and Ibaka, boasting five three point shooters, without sacrificing anything on the defensive end.  While he is no longer peak DPOY Serge Ibaka (who is!??!?), he is still better defensively than Houston’s current options.

One might posit, in rebuttal, the seeming futility of relinquishing assets for a rental acquisition.  I’d counter on two fronts.  First, to free up room this summer, Brewer would need to be traded in the offseason, and to do that would require a sweetener.  The thinking here would be that if the Rockets were going to attach assets to unload Brewer in the summer anyways, if going that route, they would do well to at least get value in the return during this season.  The greater point, however, is that regular season success, if even falling short of the ultimate goal, is not without value.  We saw the Rockets last season fail to secure even a meeting with Kevin Durant, after years of planning the pursuit.  As I said this morning, there is tremendous value to the statement that “we have made two Western Conference Finals in three seasons.”  Don’t think of it that the Warriors will win anyway.  Think, independent of everyone else, “how far can my team go?”  This basketball team is very good, and this is a season where it has the league MVP.  As we saw last season, those are rare conditions.

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About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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