It may sound like a cliché, but the true low-post center is a dying breed in professional basketball. With the influx of European style players, and the incredible athleticism of seven footers nowadays, the game has undergone a major shift. There are still throwbacks however, including Indiana Pacers’ center Roy Hibbert. He may not have the perimeter skills of the players described earlier, but he has grown into one of the best centers in professional basketball, regardless of their preferred style of play. This season should see the continued expansion of Hibbert’s game and with that a possible title run for the Indiana Pacers.
When Hibbert came into the league, he was not expected to be the player that he has become. At Georgetown he was one of the best players in the Big East, but he was pudgy and didn’t have the stamina to get up and down the floor on a consistent basis. Many NBA personnel didn’t see much in him other than a strong role player. Over his 5 years in the league however, he has worked tirelessly to get to the position he is in today. His post moves have developed to among the best, with a great hook, up and under, and a very good mid-range jumper. His size has been a great asset for him on the glass, although he needs to be more aggressive going after the ball, averaging only around 8 rebounds per game last season. While he may not be the most athletic player, he is crafty and understands angles incredibly well, which has served Tim Duncan well during his career. During the off-season he has been in the gym lifting weights to lose the remaining extra weight on his frame and get stronger. This will help him in his ability to transition from half-court to full-court play even better than he has. In this era of up and down, fast break basketball this is a crucial part of the game, with players only getting faster at every position. Defensively, he is the best center in the league next to Dwight Howard. His frame allows him to bang with opposing players and not lose his position. His foot speed may not be up to par when going up against quicker, more athletic players, but he makes up for it with his effort to get back and block shots from behind. Speaking of blocked shots, Hibbert is among the best in the league, averaging 2.6 per game last season. Ask Carmelo Anthony about Hibbert’s ability to block shots, as he had one of the best blocks of the season last year when Carmelo went up for a dunk during their playoff series. Having a rim protector like him leads to one of the best team defenses in basketball.
This season Hibbert should continue to grow his offensive game even more. His post moves may be among the best, but there are times where he needs to demand the ball and go to work with those moves. He is genuinely one of the nicest players in professional sports, but he needs to develop an attitude and know that he can take the ball and score whenever he wants to. The combination of size and strength he has out match almost every other center in the league. There may be other very good offensive players on the roster in Indiana, but he needs to average more than 11.9 points per game. We saw this growth during the playoffs, averaging 17 points per game, but he needs to carry this over into the regular season this year for the Pacers team to average more than 94.7 points a game. Defensively there aren’t many holes in his game. He could learn to play the pick and roll better, but that is not a major concern due to the great team defense, as mentioned earlier.
Indiana has a great history with post players. Mel Daniels, George McGinnis, Rik Smits, Dale and Antonio Davis and Jermaine O’Neal are all examples of the big men that have passed through the franchise, and during their tenures the organization was among the best in professional basketball. Hibbert has taken the torch from those players and has made sure with his hard work that the Pacers will continue to challenge for their first Larry O’Brien trophy after their great ABA history.