When Al Jefferson was in Charlotte, the team has a powerful offensive weapon, but a major liability on the inside. Steve Clifford, the defensive mastermind that he is, was able to build around that, and the team thrived.
Jefferson is now gone, and Roy Hibbert has taken his place. Yes, it is early. Yes, it is one game. But the early results are very, very, VERY promising.
Hibbert provided a solid effort on both sides of the ball in his season debut, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds (four of which were offensive), three assists and five blocks - which matched the Milwaukee Bucks’ total for the game.
Hibbert was able to play the role of defensive anchor that Al Jefferson never could. In Jefferson’s 185 games in Charlotte, he recorded five blocks in a game just once. Hibbert is one-for-one.
The former Georgetown Hoya also seemed to form a quick chemistry with his teammates, namely Kemba Walker (their pick-and-roll game looked amazing) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who put together one of his best games in a Charlotte uniform. Kidd-Gilchrist’s 23 points were two off his career-high, and Wednesday was just his third career 20+ point, 10+ rebound performance.
Hibbert played a role in that, boxing out Milwaukee’s bigger players and allowing the small forward to roam and control the boards. Hibbert and Kidd-Gilchrist each had four offensive rebounds, nearly matching the total by the entire Milwaukee Bucks (10).
The length of both players proved to be a pain for the Bucks to deal with - and it’s not like the Bucks are known for being a team lacking size or length on their part. Milwaukee struggled for the majority of the evening, finishing the game shooting 42.4 percent from the floor, and just 30 percent on shots in the paint (non-restricted area).
Charlotte will need a strong performance from both Kidd-Gilchrist and Hibbert together to start the season, with Clifford repeatedly stating how the team’s defense would need to carry them through their tough opening stretch. The team’s next two games against Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat and Al Horford and the Celtics will provide a whole new challenge for Hibbert inside, as well as the team overall.
We will see if Wednesday was a one night show or a preview of more to come.