Serge Ibaka is Orlando Magic’s first-half MVP
As the season’s halfway point is upon us, it is time to look at who the Orlando Magic’s MVP has been so far this season. The answer is clear: Serge Ibaka.
In his first season with the Magic, Ibaka has shown he is still a top power forward in the NBA. He has proven he is still a threat to block shots on defense and has shown an ability to score effectively.
Statistically speaking, Ibaka is having a much better season than he did last year. Ibaka is now out of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook‘s shadow with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has been able to be a top option for the Magic. As the season has progressed, he has become Orlando’s best player.
As the season started, the Magic were not gelling. Every other night the team was getting blown out by 20-plus points. Ibaka has still managed to find his footing even though the roster continues to struggle as one unit.
Ibaka has been a welcomed addition to the Magic. He is the most talented player on the team and has been the consistent presence that has been missing in Orlando since the Dwight Howard days.
There is no debating acquiring Ibaka the way the Magic did was something of a head-scratcher. The price they paid for him may have been too high. Even so, Ibaka has been the team’s best player.
What he has done on the court has been strong. Enough to anchor the Magic through the first half of the season consistently.
Obviously, there are many concerns about Ibaka’s future with the team. Those have nothing to do with his play on the court and should not take away from the fact he is this team’s most valuable player to this point.
Offensively, Ibaka has been having one of his best seasons. He provides scoring from all over the floor. His ability to stretch the floor and make 3-pointers is key to this Orlando offense. Ibaka is shooting just better than 38 percent from three and takes about four of them per game. That percentage is more than enough to make opponents respect his shot.
His 15.5 points per game are a career high. Ibaka has thrived with a larger offensive role.
What has been most impressive about Ibaka has been his efficiency. Ibaka currently has the ball in his hands more than ever. With a career high usage rate, (21.4 percent) Ibaka is having one of the best shooting seasons. Ibaka has a 56.7 percent true shooting percentage as well as a 17.9 PER. This is the best rating he has had in three seasons.
Looking back at Ibaka’s time with the Thunder, it is clear he is not the player he once was. Ibaka is not the explosive player he used to be. He is still a good athlete, but he can no longer jump out of the gym and cover speedy guards.
Still, Ibaka is a smart defender. He has had a handful of games where he was other worldly defensively. Blocking four or five shots in a single game. Plus, Ibaka’s reputation alone makes players think twice about finishing at the rim.
That kind of defensive impact is something the Magic have needed.
Nikola Vuvevic has improved drastically on defense. In past seasons, Bismack Biyombo has been known as a good defender. Still, both Biyombo and Vucevic have left something to be desired. Ibaka has been more consistent up to this point on both ends of the floor.
Although the Magic have the tendency to be lazy on the glass, Ibaka has some pretty solid numbers in regards to rebounding. With 7.1 rebounds per game, Ibaka is third on the team in rebounds (behind Vucevic and Biyombo). Ibaka has been a double-double threat on most nights too.
It is clear Ibaka has had a positive impact in almost every phase of the game. Although his Magic career looks to be a short one, Ibaka is the main reason that this team stays afloat.
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