Don’t forget the consummate professionals.
There’s an old-timer in every workplace. Perhaps they’re a little outdated and their work lacks flash or pizzazz, but they show up on time, they work hard, and you can count on them to get the job done. They ask “How are ya?” when they walk by your desk and always participate in office pools. They’re a part of the company, if only in the background.
For the Raptors, that’s Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes. They’re far from cornerstones, but they stay in their lane and work hard. They’re afterthoughts, deep bench pieces on a good team, but a trusty option when called upon.
Tyler Hansbrough – Strengths
Hansbrough is stuck in a bad place with the Raptors. He should be the third big in a middling team, but he’s trapped behind two players in Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson for power forward. Hansbrough isn’t big enough and can’t effectively protect the rim, so center isn’t an option, but he deserves to be more than just an insurance policy, as he is here.
Hansbrough’s skillset is comprised solely of his effort. That’s not a knock against Hansbrough, as despite his talent and physical limitations, his presence on the court never goes unnoticed. He batters opponents going for stray rebounds and loose balls which frustrates players to no end. He’s a pest.
Being a pest really works for Hansbrough. Despite having little semblance of a dribble-drive or post game, Hansbrough attempted nearly a 1-to-1 ratio (0.944 FTr) between free-throw and field-goals attempts last season. He averaged 6.8 free throws attempted per 36 minutes played last year, topping the likes of Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony.
Hansbrough’s hustle also translates into stellar rebounding numbers. He grabbed 17.1 percent of rebounds available while on the court last season which places him in the company of Zach Randolph (17.4) and Kenneth Faried (16.9).
Tyler Hansbrough – Weaknesses
Hustle is great, and the extent to which Hansbrough works certainly qualifies as a skill, but it doesn’t compensate for his shortcomings. He doesn’t do much else aside from post-defense, drawing fouls and grabbing rebounds.
Take his shooting, for example. Hansbrough can’t shoot. Here’s his shot chart from last season courtesy of Nylon Calculus. The size of the squares indicate quantity of attempts, and the color represents points per shot.
There’s also the matter of Hansbrough’s passing. The Raptors’ offense doesn’t feature bigs facilitating out of the high post the way Memphis (with Marc Gasol) and last season’s Bulls (with Joakim Noah) does, but Hansbrough’s aversion to passing is a problem. He averages just 0.6 assists per 36 minutes last season, which is terrible even for a big. Hansbrough is in Andre Drummond and Chris Andersen territory, and those two only get set up for alley-oops. Hansbrough actually posted up quite a few times to start last season.
Finally, Hansbrough can’t really guard the rim. He’s undersized at power forward which lends him to be fairly ineffective at protecting the basket. He follows rotations well and he can reliably hedge and recover on pick-and-rolls, but Hansbrough also allowed opponents to shoot 53.4 percent at the rim last season which places him alongside turnstiles Pau Gasol (54.8 percent) and Spencer Hawes (53.3 percent).
This poses a problem for Hansbrough in the current era of the NBA. Bigs who can’t shoot and can’t defend the rim just don’t hold much value. It’s great that he works so hard and he’s definitely effective enough to deserve a place in the league for many years to come, but he won’t have a significant role on any playoff team.
Chuck Hayes – Strengths
Hayes’s strength is literally that — he’s really strong. He’s the immobile object built to withstand the other teams’ unstoppable forces. Despite standing at just 6-foot-6, Hayes is one of the league’s best post-defenders. It looks ridiculous when he’s matched against hulking giants like Pau Gasol, but Hayes simply refuses to concede ground.
Defense is Hayes’ specialty. He’s like Matt Stairs off the bench — he’s only here to pinch hit. When Valanciunas and Johnson are getting demolished in the post, Hayes comes in to steady the ship. Sometimes it works, like it did when Gasol was eating Valanciunas alive last January. Sometimes it doesn’t, like when DeMarcus Cousins demolished the Raptors.
In short, the clip below summarizes Hayes’ skills in their entirety.
Chuck Hayes — Weaknesses
Here’s a GIF of Hayes’ lone make from beyond 10 feet last season.
Look, if Hayes and Hansbrough are called upon for more than 800 minutes each, the Raptors are in serious trouble. If Johnson, Patterson and Valanciunas stay healthy, there really isn’t a great need for either player to factor significantly into the outcomes of games.
Hansbrough, for example, is injury insurance. He’ll only find minutes if someone goes down. He might not even be ahead of James Johnson in terms of depth at the four. I predicted this last season with Hansbrough and it didn’t come to fruition, but look for Hansbrough to be moved at the trade deadline. He’s a solid bench piece, but the Raptors have much better options.
Hayes, on the other hand, will continue to spot minutes. As far as backup centers go, Hayes actually isn’t bad. He’s a savvy vet who knows where to be on rotations and he can help lockdown post-up players. That should come in handy in the Eastern Conference, where bigs like Brook Lopez, Al Jefferson and Nikola Vucevic have historically posed problems for Valanciunas. For that, and his leadership, Hayes will likely remain with the squad through the season, pitching in whenever possible.
You just read 900+ words on Chuck Hayes and Tyler Hansbrough. You love the Raptors way too much. Get help.