Serge Ibaka was always a calming presence for his teams whenever he stepped onto the court.
Standing at 6’10” and weighing a chiseled 235 pounds, Ibaka earned his minutes on the defensive side of the court. During the early portion of his career, Ibaka would play hot potato with the ball on offense. Once the rock touched his hands, if he wasn’t completely under the basket, Ibaka would immediately swing it. On defense, however, Ibaka could do it all.
His impeccable coverage on pick and roll situations was elite, his ability to switch on the perimeter was crucial and his shot-blocking capabilities were second to none. In his prime, Ibaka routinely racked up double-digit swatted shots. On two separate occasions, Ibaka led the league in blocks per game. In four separate postseason runs, Ibaka averaged at least 2.5 blocks per game.
With multiple seasons in which Ibaka ranked in the top 20 in defensive win shares, the LA Clippers believed they were getting an anchor and leader on the unglamorous side of the ball. Nonetheless, since arriving in LA in 2020, Ibaka has been both ineffective and injury-prone.
Ibaka has fallen off quite a bit
Having played just 41 games in year one before being sidelined with season-ending back surgery, Ibaka hasn’t returned to form. His once ferocious playing style is now mundane. The vehement howls while pointing to the crowd after sending countless shots into the fifth row, were replaced with inquisitive looks as he blew numerous defensive assignments.
Presently, after fighting his way back to the court, Ibaka is putting up career lows across the board. In now his 13th season, Ibaka is averaging just six points, 3.9 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game. Everything has plummeted for the once outstanding defender. And, as a result, the Clippers have been forced to go through life without him.
Surprisingly, the Clippers have managed to adjust smoothly. Presently, they rank sixth in overall defensive rating, proving that at this point, Ibaka’s contributions on that side of the floor are inconsequential.
With Ibaka’s contract set to expire at the end of the year, it’s doubtful that the Clippers opt to re-sign him. While he’s fought vigorously to stay on the court and provide them with his once outstanding defensive prowess, the Clippers franchise will likely move forward without him.