Setting the Bar: Serge Ibaka and Byron Mullens
We took a look at a list of goals for the entire Thunder team a couple weeks ago. But let’s get detailed. Let’s get specific. I’m going to dig in and hit on some individual goals for a few players that would define a successful season. So what meters for success should we set for Serge Ibaka and Byron Mullens?
Don’t become Mo Sene. In other words, don’t become best buds with the Gatorade jug. Sene had potential but never found a way onto the floor unless OKC was down 30 with a minute to go. Ibaka showcased a far more polished game in the summer than Sene ever displayed, so that’s encouraging. He’s just 20, so I understand if he gets put on the end of the bench to learn and work. But the point is, don’t get trapped there. Show some improvement throughout the season, forcing Scott Brooks to give you time. Whether it be four minutes at the end of a game or 15 meaningful ones in the first half, just get some time on the floor. Sure, I’d love to see him explode and have a big year, but let’s be realistic and keep our minds set on player development.
Learn help defense. This will be a major goal for Byron Mullens as well, but with Ibaka’s length and absurd athleticism, there’s no excuse for him to not be swatting shots from little guards that try and come to the rim. He was late helping during summer ball, but that’s understandable as he learned the pace and feel of the game. But like I said, if there’s one thing he should do well, it’s rejecting shots from the weak side.
Figure out the post. Much like D.J. White, Ibaka has a nice face-up game. And much like White, he needs a baby hook or some kind of move on the post. He pulled out a couple turnaround jumpers in Orlando and Vegas, but he needs to consistently get on the block and try and score. Ibaka has ridiculous tools, but he’s the type of guy that’s going to have to work a little to harness them. If he’s a worker, he could be special, especially offensively.
Ideal stats: N/A. I just don’t know what to put here. On one hand, I’d love to see a season of 15 minutes a game with seven points per game, four rebounds per game and two blocks a game. But what if he just plays in 10 games and see a total of 50 minutes this year? So I don’t know what to peg him for. My wish would be for him to get at least 10 minutes a game and while in, shoot over 50 percent, grab around 3-4 rebounds and block a shot or two. That would be ideal. Will he have that chance? To be determined.
This record is broken – post game. Again, like everybody else, find some offense in the post. I wrote extensively about this before, so I don’t feel like I need to go into too much detail but here’s the idea: You’re 7-1, you’re long, you’re skilled. You should be able to score in the post. Don’t settle (and settle is the perfect word) for jumpers. Put in the work and round out your game.
Help. Again, like Ibaka, figure out how to peel off and help. During five games in Orlando, Mullens had one blocked shot. That’s just… bad. He’s slow rotating, he’s apprehensive going up for the block and he’s lazy defending the paint. This is a guy that has the body and the skills to play like Tyson Chandler, but he’s choosing to be more like Yi Jianlian.
Become and aggressive rebounder. During summer ball, Mullens was hesitant on the glass. He didn’t go up strong for rebounds and it looked like he’d often release too early on the defensive end. He didn’t often fight for offensive position and was easily pushed around. He should be at least pulling down a good number of rebounds instead of having guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook out-board him. It’s about effort and right now, Byron appears to want to finesse his way instead of working his way.
Ideal stats: N/A. Just like Ibaka, hard to say. Technically he’ll be listed behind Nenad Krstic and Etan Thomas at center, but will he actually be that? Or will it be a rotation of Collison, Thomas and White playing behind Krstic? Mullens has said he wants to be a power forward but that’s not his role here. If I were wishing, he’d see about 15 minutes a game, score five points and grab seven boards a game with 1.5-2.5 blocks a game. That’s very wishful thinking so I think we’re probably more in line for a handful of appearances, some time between Tulsa and OKC and a lot of frustration while he hoists 22-footers.
Give me your thoughts on the matter. I would like to hear them.
Russell Westbrook | James Harden | Thabo Sefolosha | Nenad Krstic and Shaun Livingston | Jeff Green | Nick Collison and D.J. White