Monday, March 26, 2007

Roy Hibbert Climbs into Rarified Air

Like we’ve heard all season long, Ohio State’s Greg Oden stands alone atop the list of post players in the 2007 draft, and deservedly so. Once Oden and Kevin Durant (provided they both enter the NBA Draft) are taken #1 and #2 (or #2 and #1), teams will be selecting from the next tier of players. At least one team (probably many more than one!) will be looking to anchor its roster with a young center- and if Greg Oden is off the board, Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert, regardless of what happens against Ohio State in the Final Four, is the best available player at that position. Coming into the NCAA Tournament, Hibbert was a lottery pick, maybe even a top 10 prospect. Based on what he’s done thus far in the Big Dance, Hibbert has vaulted himself into the top five selections of the draft!

Thus far in the Tournament, Hibbert, a legitimate 7-footer, has delivered in virtually every facet of the game; he’s done everything a team could ask of its center. In Georgetown’s four Tourney games (victories against Belmont, Boston College, Vanderbilt and North Carolina), he’s scored 13 points per-game (in line with his season average of 12.7), he’s grabbed 11.5 rebounds per-game (almost double his season average of 6.9), he’s dominated the offensive boards, averaging an astounding 6 offensive rebounds-per-game (up from his already respectable season average of 2.7), he’s blocked shots at clip of 2.8 per game, slightly exceeding his season average of 2.5 blocks per-game, including 6 blocks in the Elite Eight again #1 seed North Carolina! He’s also protected the ball, with just four turnovers in four Tournament games.

The strengths in Roy Hibbert’s game translate well to the NBA. His an NBA-ready body (7’2”, 280 lbs) will provide the size and strength needed to be a dominant rebounder and shot blocker at the next level. Hibbert is also surprisingly quick for a man his size, which should make him an outstanding offensive rebounder and weak side shot blocker in the NBA. As for Hibbert’s offensive game, which predominantly exists on the low block, he will likely score at a similar rate in the Association as in the NCAA, because wherever you go, a six- or eight-foot shot is a six- or eight-foot shot. His quickness will also allow him to get to free throw line with some regularity, where, unlike many centers, he will not be a liability- he shoots a solid 70% from the line. The added physicality of NBA defenders is something that he’ll need to adjust to, but his strength will allow him to not only withstand the banging in NBA, but to dish out a little punishment too as well. Additionally, Roy Hibbert does not waste possessions. He does not turn the ball over frequently, averaging less than one turnover for every 20 mintues on the floor!

Critics will point to the abundance of unsuccessful centers in (and no longer in) the NBA who were selected high in the draft as a warning against selecting Roy Hibbert with a high pick in the draft. Why keep rolling the dice and spending high draft picks on centers? The fact remains that most successful teams have one or both of the following type of player: a versatile point guard who dictates the pace of the game and a dominant big man who scores in the post and provides an intimidating presence on defense. The same reasoning that justifies selecting Greg Oden with the #1 overall pick justifies selecting Roy Hibbert at #3, 4 or 5 overall.

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