Yesterday the Pacers big man helped his team, in the words of Stephen A. Smith, “punk” the Heat. Hibbert put up 19 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots – numbers you expect from someone like a Shaq, Dwight Howard, or KG…not a man who needed to learn how to run properly not too long ago. But his ascent to this playoff performance is not as surprising as you may think. Hibbert models his game after his idol, Tim Duncan, the soul of the San Antonio team that quietly dominates their competition – and this year is no different for those Spurs, who have got off to a 6-0 playoff start after finishing the season on a 10 game winning streak.
Hibbert was a force in college, and many thought his game wouldn’t translate well to the NBA. (Then again, analysts said that about Kevin Durant, and look at where the three time scoring champ is now.) After leading Georgetown to multiple deep runs in the NCAA tournament and its first Big East title in nearly 20 years, the 7’2” center was drafted 17th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. After being dealt to the Pacers for Jermaine O’Neal, Hibbert settled into the Pacers organization.
Rightfully so, there were concerns about how injury prone Hibbert would be in the NBA. Like mentioned earlier, he couldn’t run 5.0 MPH on a treadmill in college – yes, he was that uncoordinated. Recent history also shows a trend of issues with 7 footers, too – look no further than the downfall of Yao Ming and the injury-ridden career of Greg Oden. Why would Hibbert be any different? He attributes it to a “process…that depends on your work ethic,” and the results have paid dividends.
Aside from gaining the trust of his organization by playing in all but one game in each of the past three seasons, his 2012 performance garnered the respect of NBA fans who voted him to his first All-Star appearance. The Pacers, headed by 2011-12 NBA Executive of the Year Larry Bird, are the perfect fit for Hibbert who, this year, averaged 12.8 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game, and 2.0 blocks per game. Those numbers become even more impressive considering he only played 30 minutes per game.
Roy Hibbert isn’t nearly as flashy as Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, but he gets the job done. His ambidexterity in the post allows for the creation of comfortable post shots from anywhere in the key. Like his idol, Hibbert is a key part to his team-oriented organization. While Hibbert has a long way to go before considerations can be made comparing him to Duncan, the Pacers and Spurs organizations are remarkably similar in their build around a quiet but confident big man. Neither team had a single player that averaged more than 20 points per game in the 2012 regular season, which is in stark contrast to the rest of the teams left in the playoffs, but they win game after game behind their big men.
It will remain to be seen if Hibbert can continue the upward trend he has been having for each of the past three seasons (where his points, rebounds, blocks, and minutes have all steadily increased), but if so, he can become a premiere NBA center. The Bleacher Report ranked Hibbert as the NBA’s sixth best big man at the beginning of this season. A deep playoff run and a solid start next year could put him into the mix with today’s household names like Bynum, Howard, and his idol, Tim Duncan.