Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 7/2/12
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Roy Hibbert isnt Wilt Chamberlain but Hibbert does stand 7-foot-2. He did average 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game with the Pacers this past season. He did block and alter shots, and he did make opponents think twice before driving to the basket. Hibbert and the Pacers probably challenged the championship-winning Heat more than anyone else who faced the Heat in the playoffs. Hibbert was a big reason why, as the Heat really had no one to match his overall presence in the pivot. Hibbert, 25, was also an All-Star. So its safe to say the Pacers cant afford to lose him for nothing. But that could be the case, as the Trail Blazers reportedly will offer Hibbert a four-year contract worth 58 million. Hibbert cant officially sign the offer until July 11, when the moratorium ends. Because hes a restricted free agent, the Pacers will have three days to match. All of this is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it really shows us what a center -- a real center -- is worth these days. Hibbert is far from dominant, but he is long, and he is good. He plays the game like centers did in the NBAs early days. Or more accurately, like centers played in the early 1990s. He positions himself on the low blocks, puts his back to the basket and calls for the ball. He rarely bothers to shoot outside of 10-feet. And with guys such as Danny Granger, Paul George and David West, the Pacers didnt really play an inside-out game -- but Hibbert at least gives them that option at times. That makes him a valuable asset. Especially for a team like the Blazers, who probably wish they were offering this type of contract to former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden. Instead, Oden has been injury-prone and ineffective, and is likely to get a much smaller offer somewhere else. Then theres the whole Nicolus Batum situation. Hes the Blazers starting small forward who is also a restricted free agent. Like Hibbert, Batum is considered one of the biggest prizes in this years free agent class. Batum will most definitely receive an offer from another team, perhaps a sizeable one. If the Blazers are able to keep Hibbert, it would be difficult for them to match a deal received by Batum (also restricted). But back to the Pacers. The Hibbert situation creates quite a conundrum. If they match, theyre going to push themselves right up against the salary cap and limit flexibility for years to come. This for a team thats coming off its best season in quite some time and is on its way up -- but could still afford to add at least a piece, maybe two. Then again, dont match the Blazers offer, and the Pacers have taken a huge step back. These are the challenges of free agency, new collective-bargaining agreement be darned. Thats particularly the case when youre talking about a true center in these days of mostly marshmallows in the middle. Basically, Hibberts overall game, his size and his familiarity with coach Frank Vogel and his teammates makes him a man the Pacers need to keep. At any price, even the one the Blazers will force them to pay. Hibbert may not be Chamberlain, but in todays market, he warrants more money than Chamberlain ever made. Thats both good and bad, but the Pacers really cant worry about it. They just need to keep a good thing going. In order to do that, they likely need to re-sign Hibbert and hope everything else continues to fall into place. A good center is just too hard to find. Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO
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