On the first day of NBA free agency, Sam Amick of SI.com reported that restricted free-agent Roy Hibbert was offered a max contract of $58 million over four years by the Portland Trail Blazers. Hibbert is a young 7'0" center, which is rare in the NBA. Although that automatically makes Roy a hot commodity, he simply isn’t worth that large of a contract from any team.
Over the past three years, Hibbert’s scoring numbers have only gone up from 11.7 to 12.8 points per game. While he is still only 25, somebody being paid $14.5 million per year should at least be showing steady improvement. Instead, Hibbert is shooting almost the same percentage as his sophomore season, playing five more minutes and only averaging one more point per game.
The one area that Hibbert has shown great improvement in is rebounding. In the past three years, his rebounds per game have gone from 5.7 to 7.5 to 8.8 this last season. Those are promising numbers, but they are likely to stop improving soon. Hibbert simply does not play like a player who is going to be grabbing over 10 rebounds per game.
Hibbert has also improved over the last several years in blocks, but not by much. He has gone from 1.6 per game to 2.0 per game over the last three seasons. That can be explained by the increase in playing time.
The most important thing to recognize is that Hibbert only averaged 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Those numbers don’t justify him being paid $14.5 million per year. He seems to have peaked offensively, and while his rebounding continues to improve, a team should only spend so much money on a decent rebounder who can’t put many points on the board.
It is also important to recognize that the NBA is moving away from traditional centers. There are only a few true centers in the league, which makes it not necessary to have one. Last year’s finals featured the Miami Heat, who played mostly with Chris Bosh at center, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who featured Kendrick Perkins, a purely defensive player.
Most teams ran their successful lineups playing their power forwards at the center position. There is no reason Portland couldn’t have LaMarcus Aldridge and new draft pick Meyers Leonard split time at center without paying $14.5 million a year for Hibbert.
All of that being said, I still believe that the Indiana Pacers need to match Portland’s offer. They don’t have a big power forward who they can play as a center, and new draft pick Miles Plumlee looks more like a backup power forward/center.
If the Pacers are able to attract another free-agent center such as Chris Kaman or JaVale McGee for less money, then that may be a better move.
Hibbert is a solid rebounder who is somewhat challenged offensively but still young enough to continue developing. At the same time, he is simply not productive enough to warrant a max contract. The small market for seven-footers has allowed him to be overpaid like this.