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Locked into long-term contract, Thunder's Serge Ibaka no longer just defensive stopper

  • 6d9bb2ec9b43b300250f6a706700cd97.jpg

    Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) is fouled by Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young (21) as he drives the to basket in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. Oklahoma City won 109-85. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press)

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    Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka shoots against the Philadelphia 76ers in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. Oklahoma City won 109-85. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press)

  • 2e97390b9b51b300250f6a7067005e03.jpg

    Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) dunks in front of Philadelphia 76ers forward Spencer Hawes (00) in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. Oklahoma City won 109-85. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press)

Coming out of the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder faced a difficult choice: Could they afford to keep both league blocks leader Serge Ibaka and Sixth Man of the Year James Harden?

If not, which one would stay?

The Thunder ended up securing Ibaka with a long-term extension this offseason, providing the first signal that Harden's days in Oklahoma City might be numbered. With Ibaka's deal done, there wasn't enough salary cap space left to come close to Harden's demands and he was shipped off to Houston in a trade before the start of the season.

Ibaka has been giving Oklahoma City its money's worth. He's averaging about five more points and leading the Thunder in rebounding.