In July the Toronto Raptors, well aware of their need for front-court help, signed free-agent power forward Tyler Hansbrough. In 2009, the Indiana Pacers drafted Hansbrough at #13 out of North Carolina, where he had enjoyed a distinguished collegiate career. Tyler’s best year as a pro was his second, in which he started 29 of 70 games, and averaged 11 points and over 5 rebounds. His minutes and numbers have dipped since that season of promise, and the Pacers, waist-deep in excellent big men like David West and Roy Hibbert, declined to offer him a contract.
Hansbrough’s nickname is “psycho-T”, which is only mildly hyperbolic. Tyler loves to play smash-mouth under the boards, throwing around his 6’9″, 250 lb. body recklessly. He averaged 5.3 PFP48M (Personal Fouls Per 48 Minutes, i.e., per game – this is the first time I’ve ever found a need to use that stat!) Resorting to cliche, he is the kind of player you hate to play against, but love as a teammate. The Raps have acquired an undesired reputation as a soft team, but the departure of Andrea Bargnani and the arrival of Tyler should dispel that notion. He won’t back down from anyone. However, Tyler is more than an agitator and defender. He can put the ball on the floor and score if given the opportunity, so don’t be surprised if you see him as the second offensive option in the half-court set. Tyler’s shooting range is strictly within 15 feet, though, so he’s the antithesis of Steve Novak, with whom he will battle for first backup behind Amir Johnson. [20-second timeout: Here's a pair of career-comparison statistics to delineate the difference between Novak and Hansbrough: Novak has hit 496 3-balls to Hansbrough's zero, but Novak has averaged 0.2 offensive boards to Hansbrough 1.9]
Based on his limited skills, Tyler doesn’t project as anything more than a career backup/emergency starter at power forward, yet I’m happy he’s a Rap. Since his injury- and illness-plagued rookie season, Tyler has remained healthy. He fills a significant gap in our skill set, a player who will take charges, dive for loose balls, aggressively defend those bigger and more talented…anything it takes to help the team win. I think this is a particularly valuable mindset to display on a youthful team in need of leadership. It’s too early to stick the nebulous term “glue guy” on his forehead, but he might turn out that way.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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