Unlike previous weeks, the last edition of ‘You’re The GM’ was a close affair, with the people who read the article and got in touch through Twitter taking Kyle Lowry over Isaiah Thomas. The margin was small, and to date was the closest contest we’ve had between two players. This week we move on to two centers on title contenders in different conferences, with both hoping to be the dominant force in the middle that can help their team win a championship this summer. But if you had to build your team around one, are you taking DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers or Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers?
When he first entered the league on a struggling Pacers team six years ago, Roy Hibbert was viewed as a little bit of a risky investment. This can appear quite hard to believe now, as Hibbert has gone from being viewed as a long-term project to a top five center in the league by continuing to improve his play every year. Taken 17th in the 2008 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors before being shipped along to the Pacers, Hibbert was by no means a hit right away. But it is no coincidence that, as Hibbert has improved, so too has this team.
Yes, Paul George is the superstar here, with David West the emotional leader and Lance Stephenson the enigmatic potential x-factor. But none of this would be possible if Hibbert wasn’t the last line of defense, the facet of his game that is most valuable to this team. In a 2012 playoff game against the Orlando Magic, Hibbert recorded nine blocks, which was a huge number in an important game.
Offensively he does struggle to put the ball in the basket, with a career average of 11.3 points per game that is perhaps a little disappointing. However, there are two ways of looking at this. On this team, Hibbert isn’t not the first option on offense. Depending on the lineup head coach Frank Vogel has on the court at the time, he sometimes isn’t even the fourth option! So the lack of points is perhaps understandable.
However, with the likes of George commanding double teams and opponents generally slacking off of him given his poor points totals, maybe he should be scoring a little bit more? For a man standing over seven feet tall and looking as imposing as he does, averaging 6.9 rebounds so far during his career just isn’t going to cut it. Although this year has seen that number rise slightly to 7.4, Hibbert should be gobbling up more rebounds than that. In fact, if he could add even a couple more to his nightly total, there is no doubt it would help improve what has already been the best defense in the league for stretches this season. Hibbert has the ability and the chance to be one component of the Pacers that eventually takes down the reigning champion Miami Heat, and that in itself should be reason to take him. But yet he doesn’t show these fearsome qualities on a nightly basis.
When DeAndre Jordan was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers towards the end of the second round of the 2008 draft, few people really paid attention to what he could bring to this team. Let us not forget, that at this time the Clippers were still the joke of the league, and to some they were seen as both cursed as a franchise and a less desirable destination than the likes of Charlotte or Milwaukee. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul would change that of course, but it’s worth remembering that Jordan was a Clipper before both of them, and he was subtly transforming the Clippers himself. His rookie numbers don’t impress, and in fact he only started 13 games his rookie year, but the sheer shoddiness of the team allowed him to grow at his own pace. Fast forward to today and what we have is a truly athletic center.
Anybody who plays with Chris Paul can expect some sweet assists/alley-oops that lead to easy buckets but Jordan can do more than just throw down. He can dunk the ball with the best of them of course, but his defensive work is overlooked sometimes. Consider that, his career rebounding average is 7.7 boards per game. This season, the best he has had and which he possibly could have been an All-Star, has seen him average 14 rebounds a game. For a contender, this amounts to their basket being patrolled at an elite level, as well as the prospect of second chance opportunities on the other end of the floor.
With both Paul and J.J. Reddick missing time through injury this season, Blake Griffin did carry this team for stretches. But Jordan was there too, doing a lot of the grunt work that does not get appreciated as much. Although he only averages just over 10 points a game, and considering this is less than Hibbert, there is room for improvement since he really is an afterthought on offense. Scoring is not why he’s on the court. Hibbert is a much better free throw shooter though and when your center can convert from the charity stripe it always helps. Nonetheless, Jordan is having a career year, in the tougher Western Conference, and at 25 years old he’s two years younger than his counterpart in Indiana. Going forward you would think he can only improve as a player.
Both players are not on the court primarily to score, and their numbers reflect that. However Jordan is much the better rebounder, and that is what you need your centers to do if you want to go far in this league. He is more athletic and is capable of starting and finishing a fast break himself if needs be, something you won’t see Hibbert do very often. It is puzzling why Hibbert’s rebounding numbers are not better, and for me personally, this is a make or break factor. Both are skilled and dominant big men, but if I had to pick one, I’d take DeAndre Jordan. Do you agree? Have I gotten it all wrong? Let me know in the comment box below who you would rather pick or alternatively get in touch through twitter @LucaLockheart. As ever, most votes wins!