To answer the question, no, he’s not. That was simply a hyperbolic question used to state the fact that Ibaka is not the renowned defender that he once was. That isn’t saying that he can’t get back to being a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, because he easily can. The physical tools that he possesses in that incredibly athletic body are exactly what every team in the NBA wants. He is the perfect floor spacing big man with the shot-blocking ability to protect the rim. You know who fits the first half of that bill, but definitely not the second? Enes Kanter. However, who’s been closing games against the perfect machine that is the San Antonio Spurs? Yeah, it’s Enes Kanter. The guy who is constantly mocked by the media and fans alike for being a turnstile on the defensive end. He is incredible on the offensive end, with a soft touch around the basket and a silky mid-range jump shot, along with the occasional corner 3. But you’d think, yeah Kanter is pretty good but awful defensively, and Ibaka can bring all the same abilities with better 3-point shooting AND DEFENSE. However, in this past season, Ibaka has clearly been too focused on becoming the 3rd offensive option for the Thunder behind Durant and Westbrook. In years past Ibaka has been the x-factor for this team, the guy who occasionally gets 10+ points per game, but most importantly 10+ rebounds and a couple blocks. He was focused on being the defensive anchor, and let the shots come to him. Now he’s putting a majority of his effort into the wrong end of the floor. As the timeless saying goes, “defense wins championships”, and for a team with two top-5 superstar talents, two guys who can get their own on offense whenever they please, Ibaka was the perfect component to them. Two offensive focused mega-stars, and one defensive beast that scared opponents into only shooting outside of the paint.
Serge I-block-a, Thunder fans and the NBA miss you. You can be a top, two-way power forward in this league, but that has to start on the defensive end. Your shooting stroke has improved immensely, but you will become more involved on that end if you focus on shutting down the other team on D. Get the blocked shots stats up, the shots will come, and the All Star recognition will follow.