Hibbert Revisited

In March 2007, as the Musselman Kings slouched toward a late-lottery selection, I made the case for Roy Hibbert. Before Hawes, the Kings obviously needed to draft a big; before Hibbert dropped out of the draft, he looked like the destined fellow.

Here's a slice of what I wrote back then:

This season was a failure for a couple reasons: poor shooting, poor rebounding, poor defense. Why is this all a problem? There's no center on this team. [Brad] Miller hasn't been a decent rebounder, defender, or inside scorer for a couple years. Shockingly, most teams depend on a center to rebound the ball, anchor the defense and provide shotblocking, and score at a high percentage. Miller's calling card to All-Star status was money shooting and incredible passing/playmaking. ...

He's clearly valuable with respect to his passing, his table-setting, his screens, his somewhat clever team defense, and his unhoggish offense.

But he can't be a winning team's starting center, I'm convinced, unless he has an incredibly studtastic frontcourt running mate who can rebound and block shots and man up on opposing bigs and score down low.

Miller rebounded in 2008 -- like, he was a decent rebounder. And his defense picked up a notch in the early season. And his shot came back for a little while. But he's still in the twilight -- no one could argue that -- and his heir, Spencer Hawes, looks a bit similar to him in fashion (though a worse passer/shooter and a better finisher at this point). It can be reasoned that Hawes will be the Miller of the next great Kings team: the heady, confident, high-post type. (I think Shareef Abdur-Rahim is the closer comp to Hawes, actually, but that's neither here nor there.)

In the eyes of many, Hibbert has regressed since we last considered him. Certainly, his production wasn't better in 2007-08 than it had been in the 2006-07 Final Four season. But it's basically similar: 13.4 points, 6.4 reb, 2.2 blocks in 26 minutes ... for a senior. Looks bad, doesn't it?

Toss those per-game and per-minute numbers out the window and consider tempo. Georgetown ranked #316 out of #344 NCAA Div I teams in pace this season. (The figure was similar in 2006-07.) Only four tournament teams played slower basketball (and most of them play the Princeton, too). The Hoyas play incredibly slow, which deflates the number of offensive and defensive possessions, which places an artificial ceiling on per-game and per-minute stats.

In fact, Hibbert -- despite recording only 6.4 rebounds a game -- was one of the best rebounders in the nation. He captured 11.5% of all available offensive rebounds, and 17% of all available defensive rebounds. (His numbers were similar in 2006-07.)

His 2.2 blocks a game become more impressive when you account for tempo, too: he blocked a whopping 9.8% of opponent shots. His size and instincts are unquestionable, and those also helped him remain high in the ranks for shooting percentage, foul-drawing, and not turning the ball over.

Go back to Hawes: what does he project to struggle with? Man defense, rebounding. HMM.

Really, there are almost no objective, data-driven concerns when it comes to Hibbert. Everything you want a big to do -- shoot well, rebound well, defend well, protect the ball, draw contact -- he does.

The negatives with Hibbert are all subjective. Like:

  • He's fat and slow.
  • He's old.
  • He doesn't have upside.

Hibbert's hardly fat -- his conditioning could use some work, but so could Chuck Person's. Don't judge! The coaching staff currently in place might have some deficiencies, but running the hell out of their players in the training camp isn't one of them.

The fact that Hibbert's a senior might cause consternation ... until you realize he's still 21 years old. This isn't one of those old seniors, like Al Thornton. This guy started school at 17, and has played a full four years.

As such, you'd have to think DeAndre Jordan will improve enough in three years to catch up with Hibbert, while Hibbert doesn't improved, to justify refusing Hibbert on the basis of his "lack of upside" alone. It's a bit silly when you really think about it.

I'm not endorsing Hibbert over D.J. Augustin or Anthony Randolph. Heck, I might not even endorse him over Marreese Speights. But I'd honestly be thrilled with a Hibbert choice at #12. The evidence suggests he'd be a terrific match for the Kings.

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