Is Ibaka The Best Mid-Range Shooter?


OKLAHOMA CITY — You’re the coach of the Thunder and you’re drawing up a play to get a good look to pop a mid-range jumper.

Who’s shooting it for you? Kevin  DurantRussell Westbrook? Kevin Martin?

Scott Brooks, the actual coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, said he’ll take Serge Ibaka any day.

“He’s one of the best pop guys in the league at that position,” Brooks said. “A 17-foot jump shot, I would take that shot probably over anybody on our team.”

Look, no one’s saying that with 1.2 seconds to go in a tie game that Brooks is drawing up the game-winner to go through Ibaka to shoot a 17-footer. At the same time, no one’s saying he isn’t.

Brooks didn’t hand out the compliment for the sake of pumping up his fourth-year power forward more known for his swats than his swishes. That fact is that Ibaka is riding an offensive surge this season that has him ranked 11th in scoring among the league’s power forwards at 14.0 points a game, five points more than last season’s average.

It has greatly aided in OKC’s explosive offense that is posting more assists (22.1 per game) and scoring at a slightly higher clip (105.4) than it did with James Harden.

“Every time we play against a team, they go to [concentrate on] Russell and Kevin, so we need somebody to step up,” Ibaka said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

The stats bear out Brooks’ trust in Ibaka.

Ibaka ranks No. 1 among power forwards in field-goal percentage at 58.7 percent, a mark that would blow away his previous season-best of 54.3 percent (accomplished in both his first and second seasons).

And yes, you’d be correct if you’re thinking the chiseled, 6-foot-10, 235-pounder from the Congo gets a lot of buckets at point-blank range. He’s one of the best finishers in the restricted area, converting 74 percent of those attempts. And when he gets fouled down there, he’s making 83.7 percent of his free throws, third-best among power forwards.

However, you’d be wrong if you’re thinking the majority of his shots come inside the restricted area or even from within the key as a whole. Of his 225 total shot attempts this season, 84, or 37.3 percent, have come in the restricted area. Only 23 shots — not percent, but shots — have come inside the rest of the key.

So the remaining 104 attempts, 46.2 percent of his total shot attempts, are mid-range jumpers, shots that come from outside the paint and extend to the 3-point arc.

He’s connected on 57 of his 104 jumpers from that range, a whopping 55 percent. It’s a tremendous improvement from the last two seasons, when he shot 43 and 41 percent, respectively.

Ibaka has made himself a mid-range monster.

“I keep working, man, keep working, keep working,” Ibaka said after he scored 14 points on 7-for-14 shooting in last Friday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers. “Now I have my confidence and I’m enjoying my time.”

If 14 shots seems like a lot on a team with Durant, Westbrook and Martin, it is. Yet already 11 times in the Thunder’s 22 games, Ibaka has claimed double-digit shot attempts. That happened 14 times in 66 games last season, and 21 times in 82 games in 2010-11.

It leads back to Brooks’ increasing comfort level with Ibaka taking a 17-footer when he’s got a pair of lethal All-Stars and a sharpshooter in Martin. Again, the stats bear it out.

Ibaka’s mid-range shot — remember, he’s hitting it at 55 percent — is far and away the most accurate on the team, if not the entire league. Durant shoots it at 45 percent (55-for-123), Martin at 37 percent (24-for-65) and Westbrook, so good at that high-riser from the free throw line, is at 35 percent (40-for-115).

Heck, you want more? Here’s a comparison with other power forwards, plus other top scorers, regardless of position: Harden from mid-range is shooting 34 percent; LeBron James is shooting 35 percent; Zach Randolph is at 40 percent; Blake Griffin is at 41 percent; LaMarcus Aldridge is at 42 percent; Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are both at 47 percent; and Kevin Garnett is at 52 percent.

It’s no wonder that Ibaka’s coach and teammates are calling his number.

“It definitely helps,” Brooks said of Ibaka’s improved shooting. “He’s playing with more offensive confidence and our team is playing with more offensive confidence giving it to him.”


  1. Stop Hating says:

    Why are so many people hating on the fact that the jumpers are wide open? Do you not know basic basketball?
    Offense: Putting ball in basket equals points, so to do that you must either make a layup, dunk, Ft shot, mid range, or 3 pointer. you then must get high percentage shots which usually vary from player to player depending on skill set but generally the closer to the basket the better, and the more OPEN the better. Waiting for the offensive basic correction that won’t come.
    So the more the open jump shot the better. Don’t remember the last time coaches said “Wait till your guarded before you take a shot!”

  2. Albert says:

    Ibaka está mejorando más y más cada día.
    Se ha convertido en uno de los mejores en su puesto en la NBA.
    Y yo digo: ¿por qué no puedes ser All Star esta temporada?

    Perfectamente podría, verdad? Además, siempre ofrece espectáculo. Viva el Show!

  3. Tyler says:

    KG, D West, and Dirk before Ibaka. and im an okc fan. sorry but serge takes a lot of OPEN jumpers. westbrook and durant r a huge reason for that 58%… but serge is still my boy, he’ll progress and get better

  4. WHAT says:

    please RAJON RONDO is the best PG enough of overlooking him already

  5. TopCat says:

    Don’t knock the man shooting 55% by saying every shot he takes is wide open. Whenever a guy leads the league in 3pt percentage or made he’s playing on a team that gets him wide open looks to put the ball in. And every free throw is a wide open shot. Its crazy that all those who do knock someone probably make a jump shot herself.

  6. me says:

    ok wtf, ibaka block agaisnt lebron was CLEARLY A FAULT. are you guys serious.

  7. Skeletor says:

    I’d still prefer David West among all PFs in the league to take that 17-foot jump shot if my life depended on it.. maybe Dirk.

  8. asdfghj says:

    KG is the best mid-range shooter

  9. Wow... says:

    im pretty sure garnett and dirk are much better mid range shooters than ibaka.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Who said Garnett and Dirk were NOT better mid-range shooters than Ibaka?????

      The article is merely giving credit where credit is due — Ibaka keeps improving his game to the point of all-star status.

  10. the dream says:

    Ibaka, come visit me and I will teach you how to be best power forward of all time.

    The Master,
    Dream Shake

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Ibaka is transforming into a Kevin Garnett-Dikembe Mutombo hybrid. A guy that can block shots and score in the paint or mid-range. His low-post face-up mid-range shot is getting better and better.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Ehhhh, isn’t the “dream shake” a moniker given to Hakeem Olajuwon? He was a center, not a power forward.


  11. rjones430 says:

    Why is Ibaka wearing a female sweater?

  12. EvanZ says:

    Ah, got to love small sample sizes. He’s already back down to 50%. It’s called regression to the mean, folks. Maybe Ibaka will get there one day, but right now, I’ll take guys who have proven it over hundreds or thousands of shots. Guys like Curry, Dirk, and Garnett.

  13. Adam Ciminello says:

    I have to say I’ve been incredibly impressed with Ibaka’s offensive development over the past two years. So raw when he came to the league and you knew he’d have a good defensive game from the start based on his natural athleticism. But he has turned himself into a great offensive weapon on a team that’s just loaded with talent.

  14. alex says:

    Roy Hibbert needs to be working out with Serge so he an learn how to make point blank shots

  15. aaaaaa says:

    Rajon Rondo has the best overall shooting percentage of all guards last time I checked. People say he has no jumpshot, but honestly he has one of the best mid-range shots in the league.

    • jizzy says:

      you’re definitely not watching other guards play if you think rondo has the best mid range in the league lol.

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:


        Is that you, John Schuhmann? Quit disguising yourself with these lame nicknames!

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:


        He said “one of the best,” not the “best.” Rondo has come a long way in improving his mid-range shot; there’s no denying that.

  16. Wilson says:

    OKC has multiple scoring threats. Thunder always improve every year. Once their stars reach their prime (KD, Russ and Ibaka) they’re gonna be scary.

  17. Ben says:

    Anyone who has watched the OKC reasonably religiously over the last 4 years (like me) would be aware that his 12/12 was no fluke, and that his mid-range stroke is sweet. I’m very pleased to see how well Serge has improved this season, but not at all surprised. I was one of those who was very much hoping OKC would keep Ibaka over Harden, if they had to choose, and I think that decision is bearing out. Ibaka is getting more looks and taking more responsibility for his part in the offense.

    Have to love those 17 foot jumpers… whenever he takes them you just have a good feeling about that shot.

  18. W/E says:

    lol thats ridicoulous,most of his jumpers are open,if Ibaka was guarded hard by other teams like they do to Durant he would be at 40%. And most of them are at the near the basket mid range area, he aint shooting far mid range jumpers he always goes for the close to the basket “mid range” jumpshoot which of course is easier to hit.

    • ItsYourBoy says:

      And your point is that Ibaka should try to shoot from as far away from the basket as he can? Honestly he should shoot whatever he is comfortable with. And if it is a even if it is a close MID RANGE shot, it is still considered a MID RANGE shot.

    • Mathew says:

      Westbrook pulls up at the freethrow line. That is “mid-range” stupid. What do you think mid-range is? lol

  19. Alex Lamar says:

    I’m not surprised that Serge Ibaka’s shooting percentage from midrange is so impressive.
    He has impeccable mechanics and when you throw in a serious work ethic the results can be impressive.

    • Mathew says:

      Exactly. He can even shoot the corner three ball. And they let him shoot it this year too. His shooting motion is a thing of beauty.

  20. sixers fan says:

    no no no it would be stupid to draw up a play for ibaka unless his man doubled team durant or westbrook

  21. zgillet says:

    “Blake Griffin is at 41 percent.”

    Yet everyone hates.

    • Mathew says:

      Thats because he is shooting better this year. In past years I bet that percentage was way lower. The Mid-Range shot is the lost art in the NBA. Thats why everyone shoots it at a farely low percentage.

  22. Big Euro says:

    So Tony Parker was wrong to suggest that Ibaka going 12/12 in the Playoffs last year was a fluke? Ibaka does have a stroke, but one factor that must be considered is that he gets a lot of uncontested jumpers because of Durant and co’s presence. I hope OKC keep spreading the ball well and learn to use him well. I feel that if they played more like San Antonio, with the young athletic players they have, they can dominate any team. The sky is the limit for them.

    • Allen Iv3rson says:

      who would you rather.. top 3 pg CP3 and Durant or that duck faced Westbrook with durant?

      • Phil says:

        Westbrook ANY day. CP3 is only the second best PG in the league, Russ is the best.

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        Nah. It’s too debatable to try to compare CP3 and Westbrook. They’re different type of players. IMHO, CP3 is the perfect fit for the elite LA Clippers, and Westbrook is the perfect fit for the super-elite OKC Thunder. Just like Tony Parker is the perfect fit for the Spurs’ system. Rondo is the perfect fit for the Celtics. Williams is probably the perfect fit for the Nets.

        Etc, etc, etc.

        So that question is ridiculous to begin with.