Forget the sugar coating. Roy Hibbert has flaws.
He is the epitome of a slow-moving plodder whose game raises questions of fit in the ever-increasing pace of the modern association. He has a propensity for letting passes slip through his hands and tends to struggle with easy opportunities at the rim far too often for a skilled 7’2” giant. He has shown an inability to deliver consistently from game to game — i.e. his NBA-record four scoreless postseason games in 2014 — and has been clouded by skepticism about his toughness and overall skill.
What is also true is that Roy Hibbert is a 28-year old, two-time All-Star who, despite his aforementioned flaws, has plenty of room to grow and an undeniable skill: rim protection.
In a piece by Seth Partnow of Nylon Calculus where he examined the effectiveness of various “rim protectors” around the league, Hibbert was one of the most consistent. Hibbert prevented an average of 8.80 points at the rim per-36 minutes and his Contest Percentage (how often a player contests a shot near the rim) of 60.49% was the best among all qualifiers. In fact, only two players last season had better defensive field goal percentage at the rim: Rudy Gobert and Andrew Bogut — also known as two of the best defenders in the league.
So, needless to say, Hibbert has his niche. And in Thursday’s introductory press conference he declared that niche will be his main focus while donning the purple and gold:
“My main presence is going to be at the rim […] I believe last year the Lakers were 28th in defensive efficiency, so my job is to make sure I clog up the paint, help-side defense, and whatever else I get on the offensive end is candy. But my main presence is going to be on defense and make sure these guys know I have their backs out there.”
A willing defender and top-tier rim protector has to have coach Scott giddy. After all, as Hibbert alluded to, the Lakers have ranked in the bottom-three in defensive efficiency over the past two seasons and — with the roster’s makeup pre-Hibbert — the outlook of that changing wasn’t too encouraging.
In order for Hibbert to be most effective at what he does best, though, the other Lakers on the roster most certainly play a role. In almost all cases, defense starts up front; while Clarkson, Russell and Kobe don’t have to be “lockdown” defenders, being able to avoid losing position along the perimeter and not getting beat off the dribble is key. Rather, they must funnel guys to the rim effectively by riding them into a position that allows Hibbert the opportunity to challenge the shot.
Once an opposing player gets in the post and Hibbert slides to help, he needs to feel confident that a teammate will help down on his man. Most guys on the Lakers roster have the short-area quickness to effectively cover in such instances, but — as is the case with most defensive schemes — a lot of this will rely on instincts and continuity. Once the players develop a better rapport over the season, the defensive schemes should be a lot more free-flowing than they will initially look.
In the end, Hibbert serves as an ideal complement in the frontcourt next to the not-so-defensively inclined Julius Randle and at the very least will provide a level of stability in the middle that will allow other guys to play more aggressive up top.
It has often been said that for all of Hibbert’s prowess on defense, he is a polar opposite player on the other end of the floor. This could be viewed as an indictment, but it is more so a testament to him being a pure defensive specialist. And frankly, with the wealth of offensive playmakers on the roster, they don’t need much more from him. Nevertheless, Hibbert hones skills that can at least make him useful on this end.
As pointed out in a recent post on Forum Blue and Gold, the Lakers plan to continue running the Princeton offense this upcoming season and not the one “based on the read and react principles that have labeled the offense a ‘cousin of the Triangle’“. What this means is plenty of work at the high post for the bigs either as a screener or shooter.
For better context of which types of shots will be generated for Hibbert this upcoming season, take note of the fact that nearly 19% of Jordan Hill’s shot attempts last season came from the high post — second only to his 23.5% taken from the left block.
For Hibbert — who has surprisingly deft touch from around 17 feet out — this fits right into his skill set. In fact, while only 9.7% of Hibbert’s shot attempts were from this area, he managed to shoot a solid 42% from the top of the key last season and his efficiency increases as he travels further in. Here’s a look at his shot chart from last year:
The Princeton also incorporates a multitude of ball screens. With Hibbert, the Lakers essentially have an oak tree to move along the perimeter and soak up the initial defender and this can allow the ball handler a clean shot off the pick or an isolation at the top of the key. In an instance where the primary ball handler penetrates after a screen, Hibbert can keep the defense honest, threatening as a release valve at the high post.
Where the concern lies regarding Hibbert’s fit in a Lakers’ offense is identical to the one that got him shipped out of Indy: Pace. With or without him on the floor, the Lakers plan to run when given the opportunity and with four guys in the starting lineup capable of grabbing the board and pushing, this makes sense. (For what it’s worth, it is quite possible Hibbert’s defense will lead to more opportunities for the team to hit the break as well.)
It would be unreasonable to expect Hibbert to suddenly become a fleet-footed seven foot two-er, but the Lakers can effectively use him as a trail man in the fastbreak where he’d once again serve as a release valve if the play breaks down. Our own Darius Soriano alluded to such using a quite relatable analogy:
Exactly this. Would remind me of the 1989 Lakers w/ Kareem. Four guys looking to break & then waiting for Cap if nothing developed.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) July 4, 2015
No Hibbert won’t single-handedly revive the Sky Hook or renew “Showtime”, but the concept of him as the trailer while the others get it and go is far more realistic than expecting him to sprint from end-to-end.
Again, though, for this to come to fruition it relies on a level of continuity that only comes with more time on the floor as a unit, but the framework of the Laker offense is not hard to envision with Hibbert included.
Going forward, it will be up to the coaching staff to accept Hibbert for what he is: a hard-working, defensive savant, with surprising range and — if all goes well — a player who can flash dominance on defense while bringing enough effective play offensively to be a threat. He has his flaws, yes. But as the Lakers look to restore a depleted defense and recover from years of continuous roster turnover, Hibbert can certainly mask a few of their own.
Craig W. says
Especially against a quick team, it is not a bad thing to have a defensive player trailing. How many back-at-you baskets have we seen?
One of Kevin Love’s trademarks is his chest-high 3/4 court length pass. How do you defend that if nobody is back?
One of the great articles with a great deal of insight. Your analysis of human skills is on target. I do believe that he will be an asset to the Lakers. Keep up the good work
Good piece Myles, & nice post Craig W.
the fact that Roy´s lost quite a lot of weight, the fact that he, at least up to this point, clearly understands his role & what the Lakers expect from him & the fact that he´s under Kareem´s tutelage are, to me, undeniably positive signs that once the team has had a chance to gel, he´s going to give us all he´s got – & hopefully then some.
I posted, a few threads ago, that it seems to me Hibbert understands this is a golden opportunity for him to make a mark: for himself as a professional & for the Purple & Gold.
As Myles pointed out in his piece, Coach is probably giddy at the defensive potential Roy brings to the team – & heck, I´ve been feeling something akin to that since we signed our new rim-protector.
Hibbert is something this team needs in a HUGE way. Hibbert is going to be called on to defend at an amazing high level to just keep us from being unbelievably bad on the defensive end.
IF we start Randle over Bass, at least initially its going to be pretty horrible from the 1-4 positions in the starting line-up. The 2nd unit doesn’t look much better either if they trot out Williams/Swaggy in the 2nd unit. Any team that has lots of wing talent will be able to do whatever they want against us, with Clarkson being our only somewhat competent wing defender. We have serious problems now that Kobe can no longer defend anybody, Russel is going to get burnt a ton, and Clarkson at best is average. Swaggy and Williams are well known blah defenders. So unless we play guys further down the roster list who likely are better defenders more minutes its not going to be pretty.
I hope Hibbert has a great attitude b/c he had plenty of able defenders around him w/ the Pacers. He’s going to feel like he’s on an island by himself on defense a fair amount. Hopefully the lakers play a fair amount of Zone this year to try and minimize the damage. The West has so many teams with massive offensive output, even with Hibbert I think there is a good chance we give up more points than last season.
What is alway amusing to me is how people talk about how slow Hibbert is and the NBA is a faster league where bigs cannot be effective. Last time I checked fast breaks don’t involve 5 guys. We are talking about 2-3 guys on a fast break. The only thing that hurts bigs is there inability to guard the pick and roll on a switch. This is where there lack of mobility and quickness comes into play. If they can do this avg and everything else on defense great, then the big is not a liability. If I am not mistaken, Hibbert fits this description.
If Upshaw can get into shape and knock the rust off by all-star break maybe he can give the lakers 15 minutes a game post all-star game. Black getting the rest of the minutes at center and this could be a pretty solid group.
We have plenty of fire power on offense, so we don’t need these guys taking many shots.. This should help speed up the time it take Upshaw to get on the court and produce. He will only need to focus on defense and model his offensive game after deAndre.
What do y’all think?
While I want Hibbert to be successful the reality is:
– Hibbert was made available by a pretty good basketball guy in Larry Bird. The Pacers can actually make the playoffs in the East and Bird felt they were better without him. Plus, Bird had to know that he was giving up the one player who could match up with Mozgov should the Pacers meet the Cavs.
– Hibbert averages a pretty pedestrian 11 pts 7 boards and only plays 25 – 28 mins a game.
– He’s expensive, $16 mil a year
I have trouble seeing him on the team next year unless the Lakers have no alternatives and need Hibbert to eat cap space to reach the spending floor.
Could a had Okafour @ $4 mil a year .. Let’s hope Russell lives up to his promise.
Craig W. says
Value is relative to your situation. As an example, Memphis traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers and ultimately got full value out of that trade. At first blush it looked like highway robbery, but Pau didn’t have the value for Memphis that he did for the Lakers. There have been countless situations where a player and an organization reached an impass – whether because of on-court needs or personal chemistry – however, that player still had great value for another organization.
IMO – Hibbert fits this narrative. This doesn’t say he is the ‘2nd coming’, but he does answer Laker needs at this time.
Ryan P says
Remember Okafor was the most likely to be rookie of the year while Russell is the most likely to be a superstar… Let this play out over the course of their first contracts then and only then can we really say, we should have gotten Okafor.
This will require patience.
I am really looking forward to Hibbert doing well here. His defensive prowess we all know, but I think that you will be a positive on Offensive too. The Pacers have sucked on team offensive without good offensive players other than George and Stevenson. This will be the most offensive players that he has ever played with and should relish not being double teamed.
about Bird dumping Hibbert,
in Hibbert’s defense, there were some very disruptive things that happened in the Pacers’ locker room, if the stories are to be believed. the guy is only human. it’s a major breach of trust when your wife is sleeping with your teammate. that might make anyone lose confidence, both in the team and in one’s self. he may be revitalized by a new home.
he’s always been a high-quality center. he’s not a franchise player, but he doesn’t need to be.
Hibbert is an interesting case. He, like most humans, is an extraordinary mixture of strengths and weaknesses. His offensive game has never been stellar, especially for a 7’2″ center. One of his real liabilities, inexplicably, is his offense close to the rim. One would think this would be a major strength. But it’s not.
On the other hand, he is not a complete non-entity on offense. In 2011-12, he averaged 12.8 ppg and 8.8 rebounds / game in 29:47 — not exactly terrible numbers. Last year his averages were 10.6 ppg and 7.1 rbg in 25:20…not sterling, but not invisible either.
Against the Miami Heat in the playoffs in 2012-13 he was a true force in the paint, especially on defense. The following year, astonishingly, he was recording zero / zero games with no points and no rebounds in the playoffs. Clearly something was amiss.
Meanwhile, through it all he has remained one of the premier rim protectors in the NBA. The facts bear this out as does even the most cursory eye test. He is, in short, a major force when it comes to protecting the rim. That will probably not change.
Something tells me that Hibbert simply needs a change of scenery. Most human beings come to such a point in their lives — some more than once. I sense that Roy is at such a juncture. When you consider that he is also in a contract year and won’t turn 29 until December 11 (therefore putting him very much in his prime), there is cause, I think, for legitimate hope.
I think it’s entirely to early to write Hibbert off. Facile cynicism can be cast at any player. If anything, Roy Hibbert could be something of an “X-Factor” on this Lakers team.
I suggest that we give him a fair chance to see how he responds. We might be pleasantly surprised…or not. Only time will tell.
Right on point. Big ifs but youngsters playing good and Hibbert playing on par with his defensives capabilities, the lakers could push for the 8th seed. How sweet would that be if the Lakers only lose a mid to late 1st rd to philly instead of a lottery pick.
J C says
I had no idea Hibbert had a personal issue with a teammate like that. No wonder he quit on the Pacers. I hope the change of scenery does him good. In fact, in a contract year, he’s either gonna kick a– or flop big time. If he flops, he’s one year and out. If he does well, he stays a Laker. We can’t lose either way.
Remember it took a few years for Andrew Bynum to flourish. That’s when Buss and Kupchak looked like geniuses for drafting him.
Hopefully Russell will round out the same way.
I think Okafor was more of a sure thing.
Perhaps the younger Buss inherited the love of a gamble from his father. Here’s hoping it pans out.
I do truly admire Russell’s passing eye. It’s elite.
I think letting hobbert go also had a lot to do with turner coming in ….. kid is looming like he will be really good …hibbert light that shoots 3s plus they needed the cash to get hill … comparable to hibbert and ellis who gives them a player they havent had to go with George in terms of attacking the rim
I was unaware of the personal issues Hiibert was dealing with. I can see why his progress was stalled. Now I am rooting for him to start anew and have a good year.
I still think the Lakers will struggle record wise this year and will not be in the running for multiple elites. However, if Hibbert is deserving then I have no issues with him resigning a reasonable deal with the Lakers.
Paul George just fell significantly in my ‘respect’ meter. Plenty of fish in the sea — can’t imagine how he could do that to a teammate.
Fwiw, George has denied it.
The link includes a pic of Hibbert and George hanging out.
It is not established that it happened, and some things suggest that it didn’t.
Either way, Hibbert needed out of Indy.
Craig W. says
On the bright side…
Let’s say Hibbert works out defensively – not a big stretch – and doesn’t pull a 0-0 on offense – also not a stretch. Also, it is very plausible that Clarkson continues to improve to being an above average guard. Finally, lets presume one of the rookies – Russell or Randle – shows evidence that they will be quite good.
None of these assumptions are a stretch, but if they happen, then the Lakers become a much, much better looking destination for free-agents over the next two years. Most won’t move, but if one does the Lakers are a desirable destination – IMO.
Remember, we have upgraded our depth quite a lot this year.
Re: Mud’s post..
Not saying it’s 100% true that PG was sleeping with Hibberts wife, but I’ve heard it around enough circles to give it about 90% chance of being a fact. Of course, that didn’t fit in my piece here but a change of scenery can do wonders for a relatively young Hibbert who has been well-documented as a sensitive giant.
Thanks for the read guys.
possibly my repeating of rumors might be crossing the line. the point is that he may have had some legitimate reasons for loss of confidence. it appears that he is currently single as he’s said he’s focused on basketball only right now. in any case, the change of scenery might make all the difference.
Honestly, the two players the I’m the least concerned with are Bass and Hibbert. Both of those guys when healthy defend pretty well and are well established for what they can bring on offense as well. They both are solid players to have around, and there is a good chance they are the best two defensive players we have on the court by a large margin.
It does look we are set to be a mid-range 2’s type of team again. Thus far it seems to be a strength, or at least a perceived strength of Kobe, Clarkson, Russel, Bass. At least Williams and Clarkson can get to the rim and penetrate a bit, and likely Randle as well. Lack of 3 point shooting and perimeter defense I see as a big problem. People may not have cared much for W. Johnson or Ellington, but they both were solid defenders. Kobe is going to be a big defensive minus, there is no reason to think older Kobe will defend better just b/c his shoulder is better. Hopefully Kobe shoots better though, one would assume. But realistically at this point Kobe isn’t useful for this team, and if he’s missing practices all the time and just using negative reinforcement, he’s not going to be much of a “mentor” as well. Back in the day when Kobe was going all out all the time, he certainly led by example and could show people that work ethic not talent alone leads one to be a great player. But showing up episodically for practices isn’t going to do much. Hopefully Bass and Randle have a good rapport, Bass could probably be a good mentor to Randle. Maybe Hibbert could mentor Sacre 🙂
IMO lakers will be a very decent team next season, the pieces just seem to be falling in place little by little. Starting 5 should look like this… Russell, clarkson, bryant, bass, hibbert. Second unit… Williams, brown, brown, randle, upshaw/black. If they focus on defense, and can play grind ball and fast ball interchangeably (as at when necessary), I believe the team can squeeze into the play-off. As for hibbert, I see him having a very good season.
Just FYI, for those that keep thinking the Lakers can/will make the playoffs this year. That means your saying this team will win 45 games, bare minimum. Also, it means your saying that this team is going to be able to defend pretty bloody well so they don’t lose constantly to at least 7 teams that are very clearly signficantly better than us. So that would have to assume that Russel and Randle, rather than playing like Rookies, will play well beyond rookie of the year type players, but rather play at borderline star levels year one. Without Russel/Randle playing like borderline all-stars out the gate, how in the world does this team compete? We will have to out offense people big time somehow, but do so while likely shooting really lousy and low number of 3 pointers. All these things fly in the face of statistics and history. Basically Russel needs to be the next Magic Johson, or Randle needs to be the next Karl Malone–but not in a few years, but right away.
A couple teams got noteably worse in the West, but a couple teams got better as well. It’s hard to imagine NO, Suns, Timberwolves, OK-Thunder all not being better to much better in the case of OK. So unless there is a plague of major injuries again, OK will be a lock for the playoffs, last year was an injury anomaly. NO is bound to be even better, Timberowolves are not going to be a scrub team this year, they just have too much epic level athleticism on their roster at this point. I just don’t understand this playoff talk, I keep looking at the rest of the West and just can’t even imagine it. Dallas/Portland are the only teams that are definitely worse, the Spurs are likely going to be a machine, Clippers are better, we can’t defend against nearly any of these teams. The Suns are going to give us massive problems with their wing players, none of our talent is experienced enough to win anything beyond a lucky game against these guys. Even the teams we might win against, should be as good as us, so its a crap shoot. I do think the worst record teams next year will all be 20+ win teams.
the West isn’t that deep.
the league is that shallow.
if healthy, the Lakers have a puncher’s chance to make the playoffs.
maybe Murphy is done with the Lakers and he’ll move on to other teams…
I think your contention that it will require 45 wins minium to make the 8th seed is based on flawed reasoning. Although it is very difficult to reach any sound conclusion at this stage, I think 40 to about 42 wins might do it. One difference between this year and the past few years is that the top teams in the West have gotten better while some of the “middle class” teams, like Dallas and Portland, have gotten worse. Barring injury, there are six “playoff locks” in the West (including OKC) and nine others looking for the bottom two spots. Even with the recent improvements, its true that the Lakers are very likely to be getting beat on by Warriors and Spurs and Rockets on a regular basis. However, the other contenders for the final two playoff spots will also have to play those teams. And sh– will happen, there will be injuries, and young players will emerge, and team will gel and teams will get old suddenly.
Anyway, I don’t see that NOLA or Phoenix or the Wolves will necessarily be better. Phoenix might improve but they will have to change the way they play and there are risks in attempting that kind of transition. NOLA is already nearly a one man team and the supporting cast is not getting any better. Davis might be better (but that is not certain), however, I don’t understand why you think that team has improved. If anything, the Timberwolves are more reliant on young players than the Lakers and you point out (correctly) that sometimes young players disappoint. Beyond the young players, the vet Wolves seem worse to me than the Lakers’ vets.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Lakers will get 41 wins or make the playoffs.
– “How the Lakers can Maximize Hibbert’s Talents”…how about hiring Kareem to teach him one move…the Skyhook
pat oslon says
Hibbert has lost weight and is probably in the best shape physically and mentally that he’s been in years. I think he will have a good season on both ends of the court. If
Baylor Fan says
The Lakers are starting with a bunch a guys who have never played together, teaching them a new offense and defense, and half the players have been in the league one year or less. The head coach doesn’t want the analytics guys playing on his lawn and instead prefers to use conditioning methods perfected in the 80’s. The superstar player is not yet practicing shooting since he still has not recovered from his shoulder injury. I am taking the under on 41 victories. But I am still optimistic about the future for the first time in a few years.
Wow – this nails it
Gary Vitti has announced that he is retiring at the end of the season.
“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”
This is really sad rr, changing of the guards just like a couple of old timers here I presume.
Kobe’s last season, Vitti retiring, maybe Mitch and Byron would follow sooner than we think.
If fans continue thinking of losing another season, this time for the sake of development of rookies, I’m out of here too, I cannot stand a team that is a loser from the get go. We don’t even know whether these rookies could pan out, why sacrifice the image and glory of this team for them?
What makes it negative insight when people talk of FA’s acquisition as a bridge to the future like Hibbert is only one year player and can be converted into draft picks or cheapies like those acquired by Suns and Utah. Or, this Lou Williams has no purpose at all, he is destined for 6th man and a trade bait to get to young and famous stars. Play rookies first before a Vet who is 6th man best last season. Or this Bass is just a defensive hulk but it is still the Randle show.
If the youths are ready to take over, show us the evidence in NBA and Lakers in particular. Summer League is a small test among their peers, let’s see the forthcoming preseason and first 20 games of regular season. Those are the real tests, if there is nothing to show why keep on wasting fans money watching practice season for rookies. I wish they pan out sooner and stop those rookie turnovers, it is un-Lakerlike. You are supposed to be a refine, ready to play if you wear purple and gold.
Chris J says
That article in your link lost me when the writer suggested the Pau Gasol trade was “one-sided.” Most felt that way in 2008, but looking back from a more recent vantage point, no one would suggest the Lakers fleeced anyone considering the player Marc Gasol has become for the Grizzlies. That deal epitomized the term “win-win” for each party.
@bmcBurmey, I don’t think the Timberwolves will be better than us. I think their young talent is better than ours and has more upside. Also, I don’t think the wolves will be utterly horrible anymore b/c they have too much talent and their they have a bit more experience with a year of NBA play under their belt.
I don’t see NO as being much better either. But I see them as being better than us, by a decent margin. They also had lots of injury problems with two of their best guards barely playing half the time. I also think the new coach/System likely will improve things, and Anthony Davis is so good that he can make them a 8th seed lock–barring injuries of course.
Suns, Jazz, Trailblazers all should be better than us this year, even if the gap perhaps isn’t huge. But the only way the gap isn’t pretty large is IF Russel/Randle don’t play like Rookies, which is a huge IF. Even if they start making some major headway the 2nd half of the season, I see no reason to be hopefull that we will be able to defend well, regardless of Hibbert, or Bass.
It’s not as if the trailblazers are instantly horrible, they still have some good well established talent, and of course we would be lucky to win 1 game or more against the Spurs, OK, Clippers, Rockets, or Grizzlies, Warriors this season. Kings have tons of talent, so based on just having superior players alone they still are likely to be as good or better than the Lakers. The only reason people discount the Kings is b/c of the team drama, but looking at their roster its fairly good–clearly better than ours. Suns are clearly better than us at this point as well, and Tyson Chandler is a better player than Hibbert–he can be a big help to the Suns.
So who are we clearly better than in the West? Wolves–maybe? Dallas–maybe but only if Parsons/Matthews aren’t playing, otherwise they should be as good as us anyway–Deron Williams is still a decent pick-up for them. Trailblazers, I personally think that they still are OK, at least a 35 win team, but definitely beatable by us, but not a lock to win either.
Unless Russel becomes an amazing 3 point shooter and Clarkson somehow raises his 3pt % by a large margin we are looking at being one of the worst 3 point shooting teams in the west. Analytics suggest that being a poor 3 point shooting team, with poor to mediocre defenders at the 1-4 positions isn’t going to get us to the 8th seed. Even if the West beats eachother up big time, we would be looking at around 43 wins, last year it was 45 bareminimum. I’ll be happy to revisit this again come the New Year, where I think it will be more than obvious by then we won’t be making the 8th seed. We have a better chance at bottom 3 in the West, then we do the 9th or 8th positions. Unless you think Kobe is going to put the team on his back at age 37?
It seems like we are getting close to agreement. Think about it this way: the reason it took 45 wins to make the 8th spot in the West for the last few years is that there were at least 8 solid playoff teams. This summer two of those teams, Dallas and Portland, dropped back to the pack in a big way. (Phoenix also re-vamped their team, that might work out but it might not.) At a minimum, two playoff spots openned up in the West. At the same time, some of the top six teams got better with veteran talent in the West moved towards the top of the playoff seedings.
As I said, that means there are nine teams looking for the two spots previously occupied by Dallas and Portland. I would say that without Lawson, Denver is not going to make the playoffs (unless Mudiay is superman). My point has only been that the Lakers are in that mix with the other eight. They are not clearly better than anybody at this stage, but they are also not clearly worse.
Also, I think you under-estimate the effect which the Hibbert for Hill change may have on the defense of other players. You may be correct that bad defense played on the perimiter might under-mine Hibbert’s effectiveness. But better defense at the rim may give other players the confidence to challenge shooters and make the proper rotations. This is something that we just won’t know until it happens (or doesn’t).
I just don’t expect Hibbert’s offensive issues to be that big a deal. He is there to anchor the defense. I do see here that Hibbert has a surprisingly good jumper which should help to keep opposition honest guarding him and that is enough from him with all the weapons this team has.
I don’t expect the bar to be as high to get into the play offs this year. Only the Mavericks look like they will be challenging the Sixers this year for worst record out of the West. 50 win teams like the Mavericks and Trailblazer clearly are no longer 50 win teams. I expect things to be very even in the West this year with not much difference in records from the 6th down to the 11th seed.
I going to guess the Lakers will finish around 10th but I expect the 8th seed to just be a stones throw away. Teams like the Thunder and Pelicans are only locks if their stars stay healthy which has not been the case in recent memory. There just aren’t as many clear losers and winners this year. Hence Cuban’s comment prior to getting and then losing Jordan that they would have tanked hard this year if they didn’t get Jordan since it didn’t look like there were so many teams tanking this year.
@bmcburney, True I agree there are only six teams that are definitive lock in the West this season. I actually think Denver is one of the bottom 3 teams this season in the West. I just view many of the 8 or so teams clearly better than us with established players, and in some cases just overall better defensively and rebounding wise. I don’t think Hibbert’s defensive presence can make up for Kobe’s age, or Russels rookie year and likely mediocre defense, maybe it helps Clarkson improve having a safety blanket of sorts. But one guy can only do so much, its not as if Hibbert is the best defensive player in the league.
So I’ll agree to disagree at this point, I don’t think we can begin to compare the Lakers to teams like the Suns, or New Orleans, who should in my opinion clearly be better than us. Perhaps they are only 7-10 wins better than us, but still, I don’t think we are in their league. Particularly on the defensive end. Chandler negates Hibbert easily, Anthony Davis easily negates our frontcourt by himself. We are going to basically need our wings to grab lots of boards b/c Randle/Hibbert don’t look to be amazing rebounders. So I see us strugling not only defensively but in rebounding as well. If we had some better 3 point shooters for CLarkson/Kobe to kick it to, I would feel a bit better about our offense, but the guys that seem to shoot the best from 3pt land likely aren’t getting off the bench very much. So again, we need Clarkson to make a big leap in shooting from 3, and Russel needs to shoot well, Williams needs to beat his career avg of 34% and Kobe needs to match his career best 36% to just have us not be one of the couple worst 3 point shooting teams in the West. And 3 point shooting certainly does matter, regardless of Byron Scott’s anti-analytical opinions.
Loooooong way to go before season starts, but right now only teams in the West I clearly see finishing behind our Lakers are the Kings & Nuggets.