Roy Hibbert's New Competition

I’m going to try not to focus on the West Coast aspect of this summer’s biggest trade, you know, the one that put Dwight Howard alongside Kobe Bryant as he tries to match Jordan’s six rings by beating the league’s other super team, the Miami Heat. (Sorry, we are contractually obligated to mention them). Instead, I want to talk about the aspect of the trade that directly affects the Indiana Pacers.

While it is a luxury for all Eastern contenders to be able to rid themselves of Howard’s presence, it does not mean that the conference is now void of a dominant big man. As you well know by now, Andrew Bynum was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in the same deal.

From a national perspective I have already heard the words “instantly becomes the best center in the Eastern conference” said about Bynum a number of times. With all due to respect to Mr. Bynum, I believe Roy Hibbert deserves the chance to throw his hat in the ring this season.

While Howard was part of the Eastern Conference it was unfair to compare him to Hibbert. Howard’s talents, resume and statistics speak for themselves. That’s no disrespect to Hibbert, Howard is just that good. But I wouldn’t make that same claim about Bynum. I’ll admit that Bynum, who has been in the league three years longer than Hibbert, has shown, at times, a higher level of dominance, but that gap is narrowing. While most people talk about Bynum’s potential to match Howard, I believe that Hibbert is closer in value to Bynum than Bynum is to Howard.

With Bynum being a member of the Sixers, the Pacers will see much more of him, especially considering Philadelphia is an up-and-coming contender in the East much like Indiana. You may remember that while the Pacers were playing the Heat to a six game series, the Sixers was pushing the Celtics to the limit in a seven-game series.

Bynum and Hibbert will surely be the focus points of any Sixers/Pacers match-ups. Taking a look at Bynum and Hibbert’s head-to-head match-ups (which can be found at Basketball-reference.com) gives us a little insight to their history.

The sample size is small, the two have only faced off against each other six times. As one might have guessed Bynum holds the statistical advantage.

Points Per Game
Bynum: 16.5
Hibbert:12.7

Field Goal %
Bynum: .684
Hibbert: .538

Rebounds Per Game
Bynum: 7.8
Hibbert: 4.8

Blocks Per Game
Bynum: 0.3
Hibbert: 1.3

Bynum proved to be the better offensive player in head-to-head matchups, which correlates with Bynum’s better offensive statistics for his career.

It should be noted, however, that five of their six match-ups took place in 2010 or earlier and the only recent match-up between the two players had different results.

On January 22, 2012, the two players faced off and Hibbert recorded 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists compared to Bynum’s 16 points, 8 rebounds and 1 assist. Hibbert’s efforts led to a Pacers’ victory over the Lakers. This game came during a season in which both players were unquestionably having the best seasons of their careers and both played in the All-Star Game.

While Bynum and Hibbert have similarities as players, they come across quite differently off the court. Hibbert has done a great job of presenting himself as a likable and respected member of the Indiana community and the NBA as a whole. Check his Twitter (@Hoya2Pacer) right now and you are likely to find evidence of him interacting with his fans or reiterating his gratefulness to be a Pacer.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Andrew Bynum is a bad guy, but eccentric might be a fair term. There was the time he was kicked out of a playoff game for elbowing J.J. Barea and subsequently took his jersey off. There are his random sound bites that seemingly channel his inner Metta World Peace. There was his insistance on shooting three-point shots in a close game. Heck, he landed in Philly for his press conference in Lakers gear.

Two top centers with clashing personalities on young, up-and-coming playoff teams? Sounds like the recipe for a potential rivalry. With Hibbert signing a five-year extension in Indiana and Bynum leaning towards an extension with Philadelphia himself, these two could be battling for “best center in the East” for quite some time.

Their first match-up comes Friday, December 14, in Indina.

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