H: 6' 10"|
W: 220 lbs
(26 Years Old)
|Agent: Andy Miller |
Hometown: Brazzaville, Congo
Drafted: Pick 24 in 2008 by Supersonics
Best Case: Tyrus Thomas
Worst Case: Maceo Baston
A 2008 draftee, Serge Ibaka came into this year's Summer League circuit as one of the most intriguing players to watch. Blessed with awesome physical tools, including a lean frame, a big wingspan, and excellent end to end speed, Ibaka's audition for the Thunder can't be considered anything less than a major success considering the athleticism and potential he'll bring to their already impressive roster of young talent. Despite being very raw in terms of fundamental skills, the Congo native showed a lot of positive things for a player who won't turn 20 until September and didn't consistently see substantial playing time with Ricoh Manresa of the ACB last season. However, the disparity between his performance in Orlando and Las Vegas were a reminder of how much room he still has to improve.
Ibaka hasn’t been able to reproduce the superb impression he drew in the first day of the camp, but it makes a lot of sense when we consider how visibly tired he’s getting after an exhausting season for him. The schedule of the camp isn’t helping him either, as he played twice the second day, twice again in the third, while he had to go through a private workout with the Seattle SuperSonics during the lunch break (“private” gets all its significance here, as not even his agents were allowed to attend it—although the Spurs were). It’s no surprise that he didn’t play in the final day of the camp.
Definitely a less impressive outing by Ibaka in this second day in the camp (game 1: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 6/9 FG, 1/1 3P, 27 minutes; game 2: 8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 4/6 FG, 24 minutes). At this point, he’s kind of a highlight reel to a certain extent, and there weren’t that many highlights to write about. Still, he had the opportunity to showcase his ridiculous athleticism on both ends of the floor with some dunks and blocks. The guy is just a panther, graceful and flexible, but powerful at the same time, a pleasure for the eyes when he’s flying towards the basket.
When it came to make plays, he came up with mixed results. He’s often struggling when he puts the ball on the floor. You can see his doubts when it comes to deciding what to do whenever he receives the ball with a defender standing in front of him. He still doesn’t dominate his first step, sometimes traveling or looking too tentative. In the low post, he lacks a polished game to just execute when he’s fed, and many times would weigh his options, even turning around to face the basket.
Actually, he often ends up settling for a jumper, extremely hard to contest given how high he gets with his leaping impulse and his high point of release, but still not entirely reliable, partially because he relies way too much on that impulse and it’s not always consistent, although he’s showing nice accuracy here, even netting some excellent turnaround attempts. He’s also not showing any passing game or whatsoever. He struggled getting offensively involved in the game against the U-20 French squad, likely because he was too tired (it’s been an exhausting season for him, as he had never played that many games before, and was forced to play two more today). Defensively, as impressive as his blocks look, he relies too much on his athleticism, and sometimes forgets to get the job done on the ground.
Regardless of all the criticism we can write about his raw game, Ibaka is still head and shoulders the most intriguing prospect in the camp for this draft, his potential looks off the roof –still having a lot of room to keep improving-, and he’s only helping his stock with his performance here. It’s almost impossible at this point to see him falling out of the first round, even if his agents probably wouldn’t mind him being free from the restrictions of the NBA rookie scale. Unfortunately for NBA teams wishing to join the party late and bring him in for a workout, the exhausted Ibaka is headed straight to Barcelona from here, so those who snoozed on coming to the Eurocamp will likely have to settle for film and second hand reports. It sounds very unlikely that he will pull out of the draft.
Ibaka had a terrific start, showcasing his incredible physical tools in nearly every moment he was on the floor, while also displaying a much better skill level than we may have given him credit for. His athleticism looked nothing short of breathtaking, as he showed running the floor in transition, cleaning up the offensive glass by jumping straight over opponents for a put-back dunk, an avoiding an oncoming defender in mid-flight by double-pumping and still finishing above the rim.
One of the more interesting prospects on either squad, Ibaka displayed some freakish tools during the game, but at the same time looked extremely raw. Offensively, the power-forward shows nice range on his jumper and a very high release point. It still takes him time to set up for this shot, but the results are there when he doesn’t have to rush it. Though most of Ibaka’s shots came facing the basket, he also displayed good potential as a back to the basket scorer. He tends to try and oversell the defender with different fakes or spins, but shoots a very nice turnaround spinning to either shoulder.
Ibaka runs the court like a guard, and was the first player on his squad to get to either end of the floor on most occasions. Unfortunately, his guards rarely rewarded him for his efforts, and we really didn’t get to see what he could do with the ball in transition. In defensive transition, Ibaka showed explosive vertical leaping ability and a quick second jump, which allows him to make a play on the first defender and still have a chance to block a shot.
Despite the nice skills he displayed at times in Portland, Ibaka has a long way to go before he can contribute in an NBA game. Right now he’s a young big man who is trained to make certain plays, but really doesn’t understand the intricacies of the game. He must become more polished and assertive with his back to the basket, and his comfort level shooting the mid-range jumper must also increase. Any team drafting Ibaka must realize that it will be three years or so before he can contribute anything of value in an NBA game, but considering his tools, there are few if any similar projects with the tools Serge Ibaka has to work with.
We had the chance to take another look at Serge Ibaka this past weekend, as his team faced Plus Pujol Lleida. The African power forward had a so-so game, eventually enforcing our previous opinion on him. His statistical effort was in the line with what he’s used to deliver, in the neighborhood of double digits both in points and rebounds. 9 points and 10 rebounds this time (he averages 10.1 points and 8.4 captures in 26 minutes per game), although he went bananas in the shot-blocking department, with 7 rejections.
The sick athleticism that Ibaka enjoys is well known at this point, but still his leaping efforts leave your jaw on the floor every time he tries at full intensity. Several of those 7 blocks came after amazing take-offs, often coming from behind a guy who was trying to finish near the rim (like in the photograph below). With his reactivity and length, he’s a constant menace for his opponents. But it was not only a matter of flashy efforts, as he did a good job on his match-up. Ibaka’s lateral quickness is not outstanding (certainly not enough for a hypothetical SF future that doesn’t seem probable at all), and even if he gets surpassed by a rival, he annoys him with his length, so he ends up being pretty effective. On the other hand, he needs to work on his team defense, improving his decision making when it comes to playing in the half-court. But still, you can eventually see him going for a rotation and flying back to his match-up in time to contest a shot that looked open a second before. All in all, his defensive potential is excellent, and we’re not necessarily talking about just the long-term future.
Serge Ibaka is back. FIBA sent the player’s transfer this past week, and Ibaka could play again in the LEB this past Saturday. It wasn’t a good showing for him. Looking a bit rusty and out of rhythm, he made some mistakes and overall wasn’t very productive.
Serge barely played off the dribble, and actually looked extremely uncomfortable the lone time he took the ball up-court. He basically asked for the ball in the low post or in the mid-range area to settle for jumpers, even if he sometimes looking a bit passive playing off the ball. He was pretty erratic with his shot, but one of his misses brought the game’s highlight, as Ibaka rebounded his own missed jumper to directly put it back with a powerful dunk. He had some problems to establish position in the low post, but in one situation where he could receive the ball, he looked pretty solid going for a turnaround jumper (although it was a simple move that didn’t require great footwork). He gets pretty high off the ground to release the ball, so it’s not easy to contest him.
Ibaka wasn’t very focused on defense, easily getting into foul trouble after forcing some unnecessary fouls, and eventually suffering with a lateral move against another power forward, although his lateral quickness is not expected to be a problem at that position.
The big man from Congo finished the game with 6 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes. Anyway, it would be a mistake to draw any real conclusions from this rusty showing. Once he gets into rhythm, we will be able to provide a more fair evaluation.
It was a bittersweet weekend for Serge Ibaka. Finally cleared to play after some bureaucratic issues, he made his debut in the LEB league with a 10-point 12-rebound double-double, although it ended up being the first loss for his team L’Hospitalet. Anyway, as reported by El Periódico de Catalunya, exactly one day after that first game, FIBA revoked Ibaka’s transfer, so he’s again unable to play professional basketball. Apparently, both L’Hospitalet and Prissé-Mâcon, the French team that brought him to Europe from Africa, are fighting for Ibaka’s rights. L’Hospitalet is reportedly offering 30,000 Euros to solve the situation, but the French squad seems to be asking for 150,000. This sad situation only adds more uncertainty and mystery over a guy who already had enjoyed very little professional exposure up to date.[Read Full Article]
For Team Africa, the most intriguing player to follow was obviously Serge Ibaka. We’ve talked about him on a few occasions over the past few months so we’ll touch briefly on what we liked about him as well as what he needs to continue to improve.
Standing 6-10 with a ridiculous wingspan and near-jaw dropping athleticism, Serge obviously looks the part of your typical NBA lottery prospect. But unlike most African players, he also plays like one too. We’re not used to seeing big men come off curls and pull up fluidly for a catch and shoot 17 footer, but this is a semi-polished weapon that Ibaka already has in his arsenal. He fell in love with it too much at times during certain games (he wanted to prove himself so bad that he shot virtually everything that came his way), but also took time to go inside the paint at times to throw down some monster dunks in traffic. Ibaka even knocked down a 3-pointer during one occasion, showing off the type of versatility you don’t expect on first glance.
Just as important is the potential he shows as an outstanding shot-blocking threat, being incredibly quick off his feet, but also showing great timing to rotate from the weakside and erase shots from above the top of the square. He plays hard for every minute he’s out on the floor, often skying from out of nowhere to hammer home an offensive rebound, accompanied by a primal scream.
On the downside, Ibaka often plays like a guy who has still learning the nuances of the game. He is almost a black hole as noted with his passing skills, and doesn’t always show the best feel for the game with his decision making skills. He has some basic pivot moves he can go to, but is not enough of a back to the basket presence to take advantage of his considerable physical advantages at this level. Ibaka will need plenty of patience and experience to round out his game and help translate his phenomenal potential into big-time production, but he’s already a pretty impressive prospect who is capable of changing a game on both ends of the floor. He’s signed to play in the very competitive Spanish second division (LEB) for the next as one of only two import players for L’Hospitalet, but does have an out in his contract for a big team like Tau Vitoria for example to swoop in if his agents feel that is the right move for him development-wise. His Spanish agent, Gerard Darnes of U1st Sports, told us that Ibaka is entering the 2008 draft “for sure”.
Serge Ibaka announced his presence in a big way to those who were not familiar with him, showing an incredibly intriguing combination of size, strength, athleticism, and skill. Ibaka has an NBA body already despite being listed at 17 years old. Some people here have already raised an eyebrow or two regarding whether that's accurate, but there is no denying that the kid is an excellent prospect. To give you an idea of how athletic Ibaka is, consider the mini-combine conducted here to measure vertical leap. Ibaka started off by hitting the maximum point, and then after the bar was raised even higher, shocked everyone in attendance by again hitting the maximum point on the apparatus a second time. Clearly this method of measuring was not intended for players like him.
Once the games actually started, Ibaka mixed things up with a couple of outstanding dunks as well as by knocking down some jump-shots. His skill level is really promising for a player with his physical tools, and once he really starts to figure out how to use his body and develop better decision making skills, the sky is really the limit for him. At times he seemed to rush things by taking off balance shots with a hand in his face or looking out of control with his dribble. These are the type of things that only lots of playing time and high-level experience can help him iron out, so it will be fascinating to see how he continues to progress over the upcoming season. Ibaka unfortunately didn't play much against the 08 American team because of cramps.
Ibaka has needed little time to make a name for himself on the Spanish basketball scene. There's no wonder why it has happened: he can be truly a spectacular player on a basketball court, mostly thanks to a superb physical profile, but also due to some intriguing abilities that project him above your typical African physical freak. He played in the final round of the U-20 Circuit with DKV Joventut, but his rights belong to L'Hospitalet.
The forward from Congo stands up to 6-10, also enjoying a very nice wingspan. He's a very athletic guy, reactive, even explosive. He gets off his feet very easily and his dunks are very powerful. He showcases a nice ripped frame, nicely strong for his age and virtually with no fat. Obviously, he will still need to gain weight, but there's time for that given his youth.
Moving to the skill department, at first sight you find the pleasant surprise that Ibaka can actually shoot the ball. Indeed, he's fairly solid from mid-range distances and has range out to the three-point line. It's basically the jumper of a big man, static, only able to release it off the dribble from short distances, often using the glass. The fluidity of his mechanics are decent, but particularly interesting is the high point of release, both because of his leaping effort and his technique. Although he actively asks for the ball from the low post, he shows very little from there, often turning around to go up for a jump shot or just passing the ball. Serge is not a bad passer; he probably doesn't enjoy great court vision, but he stays cool with the ball in his hands, looks around, values his options and decides pretty fast. Still, his decision making is very questionable when he decides to take the ball himself. A pretty average ball-handler even for a big man, he likes to attack his opponent going right, looking a bit mechanical in the process. He can settle for short shots if he finds opposition in the lane, or go up for the dunk. If he doesn't enjoy a clear route to the basket, then he doesn't look too smart trying to get something done, overdoing himself with ineffective dribbles and fakes. Generally speaking, his understanding of the game seems average at this point.
Defensively, Ibaka is gifted with superb tools, but he's inconsistent using them. He's rather nimble on his feet for a power forward, showing nice lateral quickness to contain his match-ups and deliver good flashing moves defending pick-and-roll plays. He's potentially a notable shot blocker, with length, mobility and leaping ability to get the job done on defensive rotations, but also the reactivity to easily contest his own match-up's shot attempts. However, he doesn't always deliver the same effort and degree of activity. Sometimes his defensive rotations are poor or he doesn't look too focused. Besides, as often happens with players of his profile, he sometimes tends to go for the block instead of focusing on stopping the opponent. Although strong for his age, he's still a bit skinny and might eventually get outmuscled in the low post, where he doesn't show particularly physical defense. Also a potentially excellent rebounder, he enjoys very nice hands to come away with the ball, although he doesn't always properly box out his rival.
All in all, he's a very intriguing guy, and we've been told that he learns pretty fast. We'll see soon how he deals with good-level competition in the LEB league, the Spanish second division, playing for L'Hospitalet. He's been training in the States over the past month at Abunassar Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, and will be participating at the Adidas Nations event in New Orleans this upcoming week.
We forget about this draft for one moment and look ahead in time.
We’ve been hearing for some months now about a new African sensation that has arrived this year to Spain. His name is Serge Jonas Ibaka, from the Congo, the son of basketball players. He was born in 1989 and shows an impressive 6-10 long, ripped body-- a true physical/athletic monster, particularly by the standards we’re used to in Europe.
Youtube offers us a wonderful chance to take a look at him, displaying a pretty spectacular compilation of plays that shows some of his best attributes. Keep an eye on his frame and athleticism, the way he gets off the floor, his ability to play above the rim, his coordination, activity on court, his timing going for the block or his nice stroke. Anyway, the images speak for themselves.