Have New NBA Trends Rendered LA Lakers Center Roy Hibbert Obsolete?

LOS ANGELES—Roy Hibbert was on the bench when the final horn of his very first game with the Los Angeles Lakers blew. Their opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves—and more specifically, Ricky Rubio—were pick-and-rolling the Lakers to death, tossing in wide open jumpers down the stretch; the exact type of shot Hibbert can force but not contest.

“Roy is not a show guy, he’s a plug guy,” Lakers head coach Byron Scott said after the game. “So Rubio’s coming up just wide open, so we had to change it up.”

Brought in to upgrade a defense many confused for a layup line last season, one might argue that benching Hibbert on opening night was hasty. Rubio is not Steph Curry. The predicament popped up again last Friday night against the Toronto Raptors, when Hibbert sat the entire fourth quarter after Jonas Valanciunas left with a hand injury.

“They went with a small lineup,” Scott said. “I even told our coaches, I said, 'Man, this is a game I wish I could get Roy back in there,' but they had Patterson, James Johnson, and they were pretty small, and they had us pretty much spread out.”

But Hibbert is L.A.’s starting center for good reason: He’s a broomstick around the basket. Opponents are nearly 10 percent less accurate within five feet of the rim when he’s on the floor, per NBA.com. And despite a few noisy on/off numbers that reveal far more about L.A.’s leaky perimeter than they do about Hibbert’s immobility, most of his defensive metrics top out at an elite level.

But here's the harsh reality: The skill set that catapulted Hibbert to All-Star status just two years ago is suddenly insufficient in today's NBA.

The NBA has officially become a league of shooting, speed, two-way versatility and more shooting. The Golden State Warriors are the gold standard on both side...

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