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1996 Seattle Supersonics vs 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder: Shawn Kemp vs. Serge Ibaka

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In the battle of power forwards, Shawn Kemp reigns supreme.

From the day he was drafted, the comparison was drawn. Serge Ibaka, selected 24th in the 2008 by the Seattle SuperSonics, was referred to by the TNT crew as "a Congolese Shawn Kemp." While Ibaka certainly had an explosive athleticism reminiscent of Kemp, that comparison has proven itself to be false, with Ibaka lacking Kemp's offensive skills but showing a shot blocking skill that far surpassed just about anyone that ever wore green and gold, including Kemp. However, the comparisons still were made between the two. In 2010, The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry was quoted as saying "Serge Ibaka is developing faster than anyone with the Thunder could have projected. And anyone in the organization is more than willing to admit as much. The 6-foot-10 post player from Congo has blossomed into a bonafide post threat, one that rebounds, blocks shots and patrols the paint like no one this franchise has seen since Shawn Kemp more than a decade ago." Ignoring the use of the term "this franchise," it was hard to deny how quickly Ibaka had blossomed into a premier defender. He still had a long way to go to catch up to Kemp, though.

Sonics vs. Thunder

In 1996, Shawn Kemp was arguably the most dominant power forward in the NBA (settle down, Jazz fans, I said arguably). It would be hard to make a similar argument for Serge Ibaka in 2012, although his shot blocking ability can not be questioned. He averaged 3.7 per game that season, tops in the league. By, like, a lot. While Kemp was no slouch in that department in '96, he still averaged less than half of what Ibaka did (1.6 per game). However, as you can see below, every other statistical category was dominated by Kemp (sans turnovers but that can mostly be attributed to the fact that Ibaka rarely controls the ball on offense).


Despite Ibaka's dominance in the blocked shots category, the two are actually extremely close when it comes to defensive efficiency, with Kemp actually besting Ibaka 97 to 98 (lower is better). Despite his limited role in the Thunder's offense (or perhaps because of it), Ibaka actually had the higher offensive rating, 113 to 111. However, this is not simply a battle of who can score the most points, this is a head-to-head matchup. It's Kemp's dominant offense against Ibaka's brick wall defense.

By 1996, Shawn Kemp had started to move his game out of the key. While he could still post up and get around and over guys at break neck speed, Kemp had developed a game that could extend out to the three point line. This skill could help pull Ibaka out of the paint, opening up lanes for guys like Gary Payton to slash through and create opportunities for his teammates, or simply attack the rim himself. Kemp averaged 2.2 assists per game in 96, decent for a man his size. Kemp also had a great first step for a big man, and could try and take Ibaka off the dribble.

Kemp was also the superior rebounder, a stat that could lead to putback dunks or fast breaks. Kemp had a 20.3% rebound rate in 1996, compared to 15.9% for Ibaka in 2012. Kemp was great at getting the ball in a hurry and racing down court. A quick outlet to Payton followed by an alley oop back to Kemp? Vintage Sonics. With Kemp not necessarily having to worry about Ibaka's offense, there are more oppurtunities for him to box out and get after it.

One thing I know for sure, when the Reign Man and Dr. Nasty meet at the rim, there's going to be fireworks. And that's a show I'd like to see.

Edge: Sonics