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Sun, Feb 7, 2016

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Ibaka's development at power forward key to Thunder success

CBSSports.com wire reports

The development of Serge Ibaka in one of the league's most intimidating power forwards, especially on the defensive end, has been crucial to the Oklahoma City Thunder's success over the last couple of seasons.

But Ibaka is proving to be more than just the NBA's best shot-blocker. The 22-year-old big man has expanded his offensive game to the point where he's a legitimate scoring threat.

"I think he's just finding the open spots and he's attacking the offensive glass," said Kendrick Perkins, Ibaka's frontcourt partner. "Like I always tell him, most of the nights he is the most athletic big. He runs the fastest, jumps the highest and all of that. He's been attacking the offensive glass and he's been going up strong and that's where most of his points have been coming from."

Ibaka currently leads the league with 3.3 blocks per game, helping Oklahoma City to an NBA-best 7.9 blocks a game. (Ibaka lead the NBA with 2.4 bpg last season.) And while the Congolese 22-year-old brings down only eight boards a game, the Thunder have no shortage in the rebounding department, grabbing 43.5 per outing.

"I consider him a great shot-blocker and a guy getting better as a defender," coach Scott Brooks told reporters.

Where the 6-foot-10 Ibaka has struggled in his third season in the league is as a scorer. But Ibaka is currently enjoying his finest month of the season on the offensive side of the ball, putting up 9.9 points and 54 percent shooting -- both season highs.

Part of the reason for his increased offensive numbers is playing time -- Ibaka has started every game this season and has even developed a mid-range jumper.

"Looking at my first year to this year, it's getting better," Ibaka said after the Thunder's 1003-87 statement win over the Heat on Sunday. "Coach is telling me I'm getting better. I just want to keep focused and improve."

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