Charlotte Hornets: More Questions or Answers For Roy Hibbert?


The Charlotte Hornets took a low-risk, high-reward move when they signed former all-star big man, Roy Hibbert, after a down year last season.

On July 7, 2016, the Charlotte Hornets officially made an undervalued move for 30-year old big man Roy Hibbert, signing the ex-Laker and ex-Pacer Center on a 1-year/$5 million deal.

Now that Hibbert is a Hornet, much is to be determined though less is expected. Many questions have arisen as to what the 7’2” big man’s role will be under Head Coach Steve Clifford. Here, we will try to answer a few of the main questions.

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Q: Why Hibbert?

Honestly, after trading for Marco Belinelli, extending Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams on multi-year and multi-million dollar contracts and signing Ramon Sessions, the Hornets were left with significantly less money and still had multiple roster holes. Realistically, Dwight Howard, Al Horford and even Ian Mahinmi were well outside of the price range.

The more affordable options remaining were Zaza Pachulia, Jordan Hill and the troubled Hibbert. After Pachulia, who chose to sign with the Golden State Warriors made his commitment, the only real choice naturally became the big man with a history of rim protection.

Q: How does he fit?

Surprisingly, Hibbert could fit well with this team. He enjoyed so much success with the Indiana Pacers because he was not the focus of the offense. With a star player in Paul George to handle the offensive load and a fringe All-Star George Hill distributing the ball, Hibbert could focus solely on defense, being a post presence and rebounding. Which are all strengths for the Two-time All-Star and DPoY candidate. On this Charlotte team, Hibbert will be surrounded by similar talents, minus the star player.

With the Hornets, the scoring comes from top three options Kemba Walker, Batum and Williams. Distribution wise, the unselfish team thrived better last season after the team adopted a more team-friendly style of play. The addition of Batum perfectly coincided with career years for Walker and Williams. All of which could prove useful in the play of Hibbert.

Defensively, the team boasts a core of underrated defenders who managed a 48-win season without their best defender in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a rim protector. Cody Zeller, who improved well after making the fulltime leap to starting center, performed admirably for the team. However, his defense is average at best. Against elite talent, Zeller could not defend or show the same physicality of the likes of a Hassan Whiteside or an Al Horford.

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This season, barring all injuries, the Hornets will have their defensive leader back in MKG. With things returning to similarity, the project of last summer should remain the same. A plan to pair MKG with Batum on the wing defensively, showcasing Kemba’s underrated defensive skills and adding Williams’ reliable defense to Steve Clifford’s growing defensive culture. Adding a rim protecting big man should, in theory, take the pressure off of the wing players to defend well into the post. Thus freeing the team to also run more fast breaks and effectively adding more points.

Q: Could/Should he start?

Could Hibbert start for the team? Yes. Hibbert could start for a number of teams still. Even with the killer of star’s futures in Byron Scott, this season will be the second consecutive season that a Laker comes to Charlotte. Could he have a rebound season like Jeremy Lin had in the Queen City?

It’s possible. Lin’s skills are incredible, and he was a potential starter. He simply suffered from multiple bad systems in LA and Houston. The same can be said for Hibbert. After the fractured relationships in Indiana and LA, his confidence suffered and production fell. That sounds similar to Lin, with the difference being that Hibbert has a history of All-Star abilities. The more important question is, should Hibbert start?

Zeller is an improving offensive player. Faster than Hibbert and enjoyed an improved year as the team’s starting center. BUT is being the same player as last year going to get it done for the team? Coach Clifford, Rich Cho and anyone watching the team for the past few years could see the absence of rim protection, but the slim frame of Zeller and couldn’t defend the strong or offensively gifted.

Sure, Williams could come in for an important block every once in a while, but the void in the center was always evident. Al Jefferson was a wizard on the low blocks when he wasn’t hurt, but defensively left a lot to be desired. Though Hibbert may be slower, he’s much more of a defensive asset. Tall, heavy and physical, Hibbert has a history of defensive dominance that the Hornets will hope to tap into. So to answer, should Hibbert start?

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Initially, I expect the Hornets to explore the option of starting Hibbert (whether in practice, preseason or the beginning of the regular season) to see if he can mesh with the current core. If everything works out, and if Coach Clifford and Associate Head Coach Patrick Ewing can help mitigate the issues Hibbert is experiencing, Hibbert may well be the Hornet’s new starting center.