INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 17: Roy Hibbert #55 of the Indiana Pacers looks to pass under pressure from Joel Anthony #50 of the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 17, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Heat 94-75. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Back in 2007, it looked like Roy Hibbert would leave a year of eligibility on the table to enter the NBA Draft. He was projected as a mid- to late-lottery pick, and the Kings were expected to pick in the mid- to late-lottery. Sacramento ended up with the No. 10 pick, and Hibbert ended up staying in D.C. for another year. Before both of those things happened, I wrote about the Kings' awful problems up front and how Hibbert could help solve them. If you'll take a trip back with me ...
Unless he pulls a major trade for an athletic or otherwise terrific frontcourt, Geoff Petrie must draft a big. 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. [...] 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.
Enter Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert stayed in school, Joakim Noah went No. 9 and the Kings ended up with Spencer Hawes. What can you do? They had to take a big, and one can surmise that if Hibbert stayed in that draft, chances are that the Kings would have picked up Noah or Hibbert. Instead, a player who'd last three seasons before being flipped for a rental and cap space. As I said: what can you do?
It's the 2008 draft that burns a little more.
The Kings entered the 2008 draft pretty bad, and still in need of a big man. They had drafted Hawes, who looked promising as a rookie. They signed Mikki Moore, who ... yeah. Great teammate, amazing energy, made Andrea Bargnani look like Dennis Rodman on the glass. Miller was still around, though still creeping toward the end of all effectiveness.
Sacramento was slated to pick No. 12. There was no way to two most well-regarded big men, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, would slip that far. Brook Lopez, the top center, was also unlikely to drop far enough to enter the equation. (He went No. 10.) Beyond that, the major big man prospects were enigmatic Anthony Randolph, evil twin Robin Lopez, crazy JaVale McGee, local Hawes clone Ryan Anderson, efficient but anti-defense Marreese Speights, J.J. Hickson, internationals Alexis Ajinca and Serge Ibaka, Kansas stud Darrell Arthur, a random small conference boss named Jason Thompson and our old friend Roy Hibbert. Many of us were hoping for and perhaps betting on Randolph. We should have been pegged on Hibbert. We got Thompson.
J.T. has been solid, a definite rotational big man in the NBA. But Hibbert's an All-Star. He had a dominant performance against the Miami Heat on Thursday to launch the Pacers to a 2-1 series lead. The Pacers in general have been an interesting counterpoint to the Kings. In that 2008 draft, Indiana was one pick ahead of Sacramento, but traded down and ended up with Brandon Rush and Hibbert. Since then, the Kings have picked higher ... and been much worse than Indiana.
The question in this headline isn't some sort of j'accuse: it's a straight-up inquiry. Given Petrie's long-held adoration for big men with ball-handling skills (that was part of the justification for Thompson, that he could pass and handle like a guard; that hasn't played out in the NBA) and the team's need for size (Hibbert was the biggest player in the draft), it's hard to pinpoint exactly why the Kings didn't take Hibbert at No. 12. Did Petrie feel that he replicated Hawes? Were there overwhelming concerns about Roy's fitness and dedication? Was there some red flag that has since faded out of view?
Whatever the case, it turns out it was an unfortunate miss. The Kings might not be a playoff team with Hibbert instead of Thompson, but All-Star picked in the teens are rare, and Sacramento missed one right in front of its face as the rebuild began in earnest. If you're looking for reasons as to why the Kings are still rebuilding, the miss on Roy Hibbert is one of them.