From what I have seen from most people when talking about the top centers in the NBA, Indiana Pacers big man Roy Hibbert is typically in the discussion. With the amount of talented big men that there are in the league, there is really no reason for this to be. He is pretty widely regarded as one of the top-5 centers in the league, and that is incredibly unwarranted.
Even though center has typically been one of the positions in the NBA with the least amount of depth (I’d say shooting guard has the least), I would say there’s plenty of capable big men currently in the NBA. Names like Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol come to the mind immediately, but other players like Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah, and Al Horford are players that are also incredibly talented, and that’s not even the end of it. When I started looking at comparisons for Hibbert, these are the first players that I looked to, since they’re all within the same age range (25-27) and the same general amount of time in the league (5 or 6 years, with Howard being the outlier at 9).
The results from these comparisons were not surprising at all, at least for me, because I knew that a ton of the hype he drew was from the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, who are a team that is notorious for small-ball and their lack of a big man. For me, though, it takes more than one good series against an undersized team to be able to call yourself a top tier player. While his numbers from that series may have matched up well with these other players, his work throughout the course of the entire season did not.
I’m going to start off with the positives for Hibbert in these comparisons, and quite frankly, there aren’t many. Out of the 6 players, Hibbert had the highest offensive rebound percentage, and he had it by a decent margin. In fact, his percentage was near the top of the entire NBA, and it was the highest amongst regular starters. On top of his work on the offensive glass, he also had the highest block percentage and most blocks per game. Sure, these three categories are aided by being 7’2, but that doesn’t dismiss those entirely. Regardless of why he is able to post big numbers in these categories, he still does it, and that’s what matters.
The last of these categories that he comes out on top on is Defensive Rating. He is the anchor of one of the strongest defenses in the entire NBA, and that cannot go overlooked. His size alone is enough to change the game on that end of the ball, and it appears that he has learned a bit of technique to improve himself even further.
Now onto where he loses out. I’m going to start with the statistic that I found most shocking; his field goal percentage. Some how, some way, Hibbert shot 44% from the field last season. I have absolutely no idea how someone 7’2 manages to shoot that low of a percentage. A lot of talk goes into how refined his post game is, and how many moves that he has. In my opinion, I really couldn’t care less how many moves you have in the post if you’re not making shots. Heck, Joakim Noah shot 48% and he’s not really thought of as an offensive threat at all.
With that 44%, he was also tied for last in points per game, where he scored a measly 11.9 for the 2012-2013 season. I just can’t understand how someone with the size advantage that he possesses can be so ineffective on offense. You would think that with his inefficiency shooting the ball, he’d be more keen on passing the ball, but that wasn’t the case, as he was 2nd to last in that department.
Hibbert really isn’t aided by advanced stats, either. His PER was below each of the other 5 players, as his 17.3 mark was equal to Marreese Speights. Not surprisingly, his effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage were also dead last in this group of players. His Offensive Rating happened to be the worst, too, which kind of counteracts with his sterling Defensive Rating. One of the more pitiful advanced stats that he posted was in Offensive Win Shares,which are very valuable in determining a player’s offensive worth. He posted a number that was less than half of the second-to-last Joakim Noah’s 2.7, and to be exact, he was at 1.3. For some comparison, that was actually less than what Kris Humphries gave the Brooklyn Nets last season.
I personally prefer a 79-game sample against a variety of teams, compared to a 7-game sample against one that is one of the more undersized in the NBA. There’s no way to justify Roy Hibbert being a top-5 center, yet so many people try to put him there. Because of that, he is the most overrated player in the entire NBA.
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