The next of my series of potential draftees is Center Roy Hibbert, from Georgetown. Hibbert will almost surely be available at #11 when the Pacers select, and most likely will only become an Indiana Pacer if the team either acquires an extra pick in the later first round, or if the Pacers trade downward from #11.
In my judgment, C Roy Hibbert is an extremely underrated player in this draft, and on this board. At 7'2 and 270 lbs, Hibbert would give us our first true legitimate center since Rik Smits. Like Smits, Hibbert will never be a dominant player, but he could be a very very valuable piece to a high quality basketball team.
In many ways, the somewhat unique way he was used at Georgetown hurts his stock now, but in the long run will be good for his game in my opinion. Georgetown under John Thompson III runs the "Princeton" style of offense perfected by Pete Carril, and used in the NBA by the New Jersey Coach Kevin Frank, and at times by New Orleans and Houston. The Hoyas often used Hibbert at the high post area, rather than feeding the ball to Hibbert on the low block and letting him go to work. Because of this Hibbert has lower point productivity than you might expect out of a center worthy of being a first round pick, but he now will have a more well rounded game at the next level than most coming out of college.
When on the rare occasions Hibbert got the ball in the low block, he is a productive (although bit mechanical) weapon. He has a nice ability to finish inside with either hand, and a particular nice right handed jump hook he can extend and shoot over people on the block. He also uses shot fakes very well for a player of his size, which is good because he lacks the explosiveness to lift off the ground and sky over people. Because of his ability to shot fake, he will be good at the next level against some post defenders at drawing fouls and getting them sent to the bench.
No one can tell this quite yet, but because he has very advanced passing skills and vision he learned by playing in the "Princeton" scheme, he will be very good at either playing the high post in the NBA game, or at passing out of double teams on the low block....which is a skill most bigs have to learn to do on the NBA level on the run....Hibbert will likely be one of the better passing centers in the league right out of the gate.
If drafted by Indiana, Hibbert immediately becomes the best screener on the Pacer roster by far. For some teams this wouldn't be a big factor, but for us this would be a huge plus for a franchise that doesnt have a single good screen setter on the payroll. Hibbert excels at setting all varieties of screens, from ball screens to downscreens for cutters coming from the baseline. He would be our best player since Dale Davis at setting "pin down" screens for shooters coming to the wing areas.
When you watch the Hoyas play on film, while I don't think they used Hibbert nearly enough inside, and they didn't get him nearly enough shots.....you can also see a team that played with a team concept and was very well taught at little things. Hibbert does a good job of talking while playing, communicating with his teammates during possessions both offensively and defensively. The ability to communicate while playing is a HIGHLY VALUABLE SKILL, and one that is very difficult to learn for most players....Hibbert does that very well already. He also plays with a wide base offensively, which means he presents a good target to throw the ball too, making it easier for passers to find him in traffic. Playing with a wide base is also a main reason why his screens are so important, because players have to take a wider route to get around him, giving his teammates an extra second/step to get shots off.
In doing research for this article I also discovered a fact that I didn't know, in that Hibbert was a very young college entrant, and is still just 21 years old. Since big guys often develop later anyway, this somewhat encourages me that Hibbert still has quite a bit of potential upside to his game, where as before I assumed he might be near completely developed. Although he has a full 4 years of college experience, he is only a year or 18 months or so older than many other bigs who played for only one season in college.
Defensively, Hibbert is solid, fundamentally sound, and unspectacular. He is strong enough to not get pushed around inside, and long enough to really bother most players he is guarding by contesting their shots with a long hand up. He also for us would be our second best shot blocker besides Jermaine O'Neal, and would severely lessen the defensive issues we have when Jermaine is out of the lineup, which as we know happens all too often.
Like most big men, Hibbert gets in foul trouble too often. Since he will be a part of a rotation of bigs at the NBA level, and will only be asked to play roughly 60%-70% of the time, I don't see this as an extreme negative. I also think in the more physical NBA game that some of the touch fouls Hibbert got in college won't be called at this level. In the low block area, Hibbert doesnt have many foul issues, but when asked to go to the perimeter his lack of quickness is a major problem for him.
Hibbert will be exposed in the NBA by teams who involve him in having to defend the screen/roll, or screen/pop. He lacks the lateral quickness to defend the dribble by a more athletic player outside of the paint. You aren't going to be able to ask Hibbert to be out trapping a ballscreen I don't think, although I do think with better conditioning and experience his athleticism will improve somewhat.
He also will be taken out of his element by teams who choose to play small. Hibbert lacks the offensive dominance to play in a superfast running game against smaller opponents, so he will be useless against a team like Golden State, for instance. However, in a more traditional style, Hibbert will be an above average player in my opinion.
I wish he had a more aggressive, dominating, aggressive approach to rebounding. Hibbert may lack the super intense nature that will make him as dominant as his skills would otherwise allow him to. In theory, Hibbert should be a strong rebounder and outlet passer, but too often on tape he isn't that at all. Now, some of the issue is that Georgetwon often used him offensively away from the basket, putting him out of position for put back opportunities. But defensively as a rebounder, you don't see Hibbert always aggressivley "hunting" for the basketball like I prefer. He is more of an old school coaching product, being taught to "blockout" and hold position, then react to the ball coming off the rim. This is how he has been taught to play, so it is hard to criticize him for it, but doing it this way hurts him because he lacks the explosiveness and quick twitch athleticism to be the first to the ball doing it this way at the NBA level. It is easy for us to imagine a player like Jeff Foster, for instance, out rebounding Hibbert because he is quicker and more aggressive.
Whether or not you think coaching can improve this one glaring weakness for Hibbert at the next level probably determines whether you like him as an overall player. Of course, some coaches (and some of you) still prefer this style of rebounding anyway, so seeing him "find/pivot/blockout/react" as a rebounding style rather than see him watch the ball and read its flight before attacking it aggressively won't annoy you as much as it does me.
I personally am of the opinion that this CAN be coached up, so for the other reasons mentioned above I probably like Hibbert more than most of you and other experts do. I would probably prefer Hibbert and his more guaranteed productivity than I would the risk/reward scenarios of other highly rated bigs in this draft, although I certainly can see the arguments for going another direction. I still see Roy Hibbert having a long and productive career in the NBA, and being on productive winning teams as a role player and productive starter in most cases. Hibert has a very low liklihood of being a bust, and I think he is one of the safest picks in the draft.
Keeping with my tradition of comparing players, who will Hibbert be like? He is more refined than Dale Davis, not as fast or talented as Robert Parish, not as slow and lead footed as Ilgauskus, not as aggressive or tough as Alonzo Mourning. So who do I compare him to?
Being as smart and well coached as he is, I am going to go with another intelligent but unathletic big man, who had a career similar to what I envison Hibbert being like in the league: Bill Cartwright.
Here is hoping that Hibbert doesnt have the injury history that "Medical Bill" Cartwright did in his younger days.
As always, the above is just my opinion.