The start of the 2015-16 season remains several weeks away, which means there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the NBA road ahead. For the next couple of weeks, CSNwashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward a possible third straight playoff appearance.
Roy Hibbert gets literally dumped by the Pacers, but is playing with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers a good spot to turn things around?
J. Michael: If by “turn things around” you mean not be the scapegoat for when the Lakers lose – a lot – then yes. There will be plenty of targets for the Lakers (namely coach Byron Scott), who Kobe Bryant believes can be a playoff team in the loaded Western Conference. That pain medicine he’s taking is having serious side effects.
In Indiana, Hibbert went from All-Star to sacrificial lamb. It’s hard to imagine a starting center who is 7-2 struggling to rebound but Hibbert had three or less 15 times last season. In 2013-14, when the Pacers were the No. 1 seed in the East, Hibbert had three rebounds or less seven times in the playoffs alone, including twice when he posted a doughnut. They didn’t make it to the NBA Finals. And a $17 million salary made things worse.
Everything is relative. In L.A., they have to do something drastic to help turn the franchise around. Taking a gamble on Hibbert is worth it and he will be considered an upgrade from Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer in a lot of ways. It’s a one-year commitment so if Hibbert fails, he’s gone anyway. Given how so many teams play small out West, they’re going to make Hibbert’s foot speed a liability. And Scott is stubborn enough to leave him on the floor to defend Draymond Green.
I can’t see Hibbert turning things around with the Lakers. But it’s still better for him than Indiana.
Ben Standig: I'm not as completely negative on the 2015-16 Lakers as others, though they probably still won't make the playoffs which will drive Kobe Bryant crazy and make good TV for the rest of us. The veteran additions of Hibbert, Brandon Bass and Lou Williams plus No. 2 overall pick D'Angelo Russell significantly upgrades the overall talent pool. Combined with Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, Los Angeles can field an interesting rotation when healthy.
Yet projecting how these random pieces fit together and if coach Byron Scott can do just that is a concern especially when focusing on Hibbert. The 7-foot-2 center doesn't do hodge podge. His low post and methodical style isn't truly malleable. Put Hibbert in controlled half court offensive sets on one end and a organize a group defensive plan on the other that schemes ball handlers his way, then perhaps he flashes previous All-Star form.
None of that seems likely with this group. On the surface, Hibbert's style doesn't mesh with gunners like Bryant and Williams. Collectively this group doesn't have a lockdown defense vibe. Hibbert's offense comes from setup's an he'll have baby point guards in Clarkson and Russell feeding him the ball.
All that said, simply being out of Indiana may give Hibbert the spark he needs for a rebirth. Getting starred down by Bryant during one of his funks will not.