There's no other way to say it - good big men in today's NBA are hard to find. If you can find a true back to the basket seven-footer today who can make it up and down the court without tripping over his own feet and who can catch the ball when it is thrown to him in the low-block you are doing pretty good. Most of the guys who are seven-feet tall and reasonably agile prefer to hover around the perimeter and shoot jumpers.
Some have even made the argument the traditional center with back to the basket moves is all but dead in today's NBA. That seems to be the trend, but there are still a few guys in the league trying to prove that theory wrong.
One of those guys is 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers. The 23-year-old has steadily progressed during his season and a half in the NBA. His scoring is up over four points this season and his rebounds are up by nearly two. His blocked shots are also up this season.
What's most interesting is Hibbert steadily improved during his four years at Georgetown, too. He's not a guy with explosive growth potential, but rather a guy whose growth kind of sneaks up on you.
"I think he's progressed well," said Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien. "You know, for a guy who is in his second year I think he's had steady growth. He's gotten somewhat better at avoiding fouling and become much more effective as a scorer."
While not aesthetically pleasing to watch, Hibbert's effectiveness as a scorer in the low block is catching the attention of many around the league. His pick-and-roll defense is also markedly improved when compared to where it was a season ago. Last season there were times where O'Brien couldn't keep him in the game to reap the benefits of his offense because opposing teams would simply put him in the pick-and-roll defensively on every possession.
"His defense has improved tremendously," O'Brien remarked. "His speed and athleticism are what they are, but we're happy we got him in the late teens in the draft. We feel very confident that he was a good get for us."
All told, it's not inconceivable to advance the idea that Hibbert could make an All-Star team or two before his career is over. Some of that may be more of a commentary about the relative dearth of true centers in today's game, but given the fact he was considered to be nothing more than a throw in as part of the trade that sent Jermaine O'Neal to the Raptors, the Pacers look like they might have found a diamond in the rough at a position of need for nearly every team in the Association