Greg Monroe can learn from Roy Hibbert tonight...

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (17-28) at Indiana Pacers (26-19)
  • Date: January 30, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The NBA is a funny league in some respects. The dominant center is slowly becoming extinct, thus paving the way for good centers to be considered as great.

A quick look at the Eastern Conference standings will reveal that Miami has the best record in the east. They do not have anything resembling a prototypical center other than perhaps Joel Anthony; but they manage to get by because of LeBron James.

However, if we look at the rest of the leaders in the conference, you will find something relatively interesting:

  • New York Knicks (second best record in the east) start Tyson Chandler at center.
  • Chicago Bulls (tied for second best record in the east) start Joakim Noah at center.
  • Brooklyn Nets (fourth best record in the east) start Brook Lopez at center.
  • Indiana Pacers (fifth best record in the east) start Roy Hibbert at center.
  • Atlanta Hawks (sixth best record in the east) start Al Horford at center.

Other than the Miami Heat, the top teams in the Eastern Conference all have a center that already has or will participate in the All-Star game — this is conjecture but one has to assume that with Rondo out for the season that Lopez will earn an All-Star selection as a replacement — at some point.

Of all the top teams in the east, an argument could be made that the roster that is mostly similar to the Pistons’ is that of the Pacers.

They have decent or good talent at just about every position, but offer some quality talent in the frontcourt with David West and Roy Hibbert.

It’s worth noting that Hibbert has struggled offensively this season, but his value to this team is still fairly important on the defensive side of the ball.

Since joining the NBA five years ago, the former Hoya has improved defensively to better play alongside his teammates and cover up for them. As the big man has gotten better on this front, so have the Pacers. Have a look at the graphic below showing the team’s defensive efficiency as a whole as well as the breakdown when he has been on or off the court in the last four seasons per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool:

Season

Indiana Def. Eff.

Def. Eff. w/ Hibbert

Def. Eff. w/o Hibbert

2012-13

96.5

96.4

96.8

2011-12

100.4

100.2

100.8

2010-11

103.4

104.0

102.6

2010-11

104.2

102.3

106.3

Obviously, not all of the credit can go the Georgetown product.

Indiana’s turnover in personnel plays a huge part into that and so do the tweaks in the team’s defensive concepts.

But Hibbert certainly deserves some praise because the team has in fact gotten better on that side of the ball as he’s grown and become a better defender.

The Pacers’ center has a good understanding of angles and how to position himself to prevent ball handlers from driving past him when he is out on the floor and how to contest shots while avoiding fouls. Consequently, it’s been hard to score on Indiana in the interior.

This season especially, the Pacers have done an excellent job of packing the paint and preventing teams from getting scoring opportunities at the rim. Indeed, no team allows fewer shot attempts directly at the basket, per Hoopdata. Hence, the Indiana coaching staff has been far less reliant on Hibbert this season to keep players away from the rim this season because as whole they’ve done a better job of simply shutting off the driving lanes.

However, whenever opponents have gotten an opportunity to shoot right at the basket, it’s been incredibly difficult.

According to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, when Roy Hibbert is on the court, the Pacers yield a mere 51.3 percent conversion rate inside the restricted area, whereas when the 7’2’’ center is on the bench, that figure gains a slight boost and goes up to 55.6 percent. We are looking at a difference between the top and fourth best mark in the league with or without the big man on the floor.

Needless to say, the Indiana Pacers are tough to score on as a whole, but particularly when the five-play veteran is on the court.

But this speaks to something particularly important to Detroit.

Greg Monroe is obviously not the same player that Roy Hibbert is; and really it’s not close. The Pistons’ center has proven throughout his career to be a better scorer, better rebounder and passer. Basically, he’s been the better player.

Mind you, the Pacers’ big man is a slightly better defender.

He rarely if ever gets stuck in no man’s land, where he is just defending air. Every movement has a purpose.

Given his lack of speed, Hibbert always has an eye on his man and another one on the ball. The further away his man drifts from the action, the better his help position gets. The former Hoya is also quite adept at figuring out how long he’s been in the paint away from his man, and typically jumps out the paint towards the ball and then gets back into his help position to avoid and defensive three seconds violation.

His size as well as well the angles he takes typically leave the driving ball handler with one option: go to the basket; which is what the big man wants. There he jumps straight up to contest the shot and force the miss.

Monroe has improved defensively but can still get better.

He doesn’t always sprint back defensively if his man isn’t part of the action, gets caught ball watching and tends to hug his man a split second too long when rotating defensively.

In addition, in pick-and-roll defense, he opens himself a bit too much to one side of the court as opposed to facing towards the ball and being able to change directions whenever needed. Ball handlers take advantage of this by passing the ball to the opposite side of where his body is facing (might be the roll man in pick-and-roll or shooter on weak side of the court) or simply dribbling the ball at him and changing directions to throw him off balance.

Also, he doesn’t always do a good job of helping off the ball if his man sets a screen, which allows shooters to get free.

But fear not Pistons fans, he can improve in these aspects. Have a look at the Pistons’ defensive efficiency as well as the breakdown when he is on and off the court in the past three seasons, courtesy of NBA.com’s advanced stats tool:

Season

Detroit Def. Eff.

Def. Eff. w/ Monroe

Def. Eff. w/o Monroe

2012-13

103.1

102.2

104.9

2011-12

104.0

107.4

97.6

2010-11

109.0

108.8

109.3

Some mixed results, but the results are getting better mind you.

The left-handed big man is good at crowding the air space of opposing big men and preventing their drives because he is typically quicker than them. Also, he can switch out on some perimeter players and contain them, which allows the Pistons to close out defensive possessions late in the shot clock.

Clearly, Monroe has a few things to get better at, but it’s worth noting that he is already a more than capable defender in certain situations.

With that said, Roy Hibbert is an example of how Greg Monroe could improve and become a terrorizing defender that anchors the Pistons’ defense.

When both players meet tonight in Indiana, we may very well be looking at defenses that will mirror each other in the next two seasons, so it’s important to pay attention to its potential growth as it unfolds before our eyes.

Read about the Pacers

8 points, 9 seconds.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

Tags: Greg Monroe Indiana Pacers Roy Hibbert THN-IND