Tyler Hansbrough was among the most controversial NBA draft prospects of the decade when he left North Carolina in 2009. Hansbrough was a four-time All-American at UNC, but his unique style -- perpetual insanity -- and not-so-unique size issues as a smaller-than-optimal power forward hurt his stock. He ended up at No. 13 with the Indiana Pacers, a stretch in many pundits' eyes. Some draftniks compared Hansbrough to Joakim Noah, a fellow psychopath in college. Others pointed at Anderson Varejao. The least polite brought up Mark Madsen.
So where has Hansbrough ended up?
As it turns out, Hansbrough's odd scoring style and aptitude on the offensive glass have translated pretty well. Hansbrough averages about 17 points per 36 minutes played, a solid rate for a big man. He's been an average-to-good rebounder for his position, with much better numbers on the offensive glass (upward of 11 percent) than the defensive boards (17-18 percent, below the generally accepted standard of better than 20). His defense is hard to judge both because of the inherent trouble in measuring individual defense and because of Indiana's bizarre rotations. But clearly, he's not Noah or Varejao on defense. On the other end, he's clearly far superior to Madsen in just about every factor of the game. So stand down, haters.
Hansbrough isn't nearly good enough on the boards to be considered even a poor man's Kevin Love, and though Hansbrough's scoring compares to Love during his second season, the Wolf was quite a bit more efficient. A different prodigal Pac-10 forward is Hansbrough's best recent comparison: Ike Diogu. I don't mean that as an insult! Diogu, when he's played, has served as a veritable Carl Landry clone, a bench scorer who pounds the offensive glass and the paint but can't play enough defense or grab enough defensive rebounds to stay on the court. Landry's better than Diogu on defense, and my gut says Hansbrough is too. But on offense and the glass, Diogu and Hansbrough are quite alike.
The hope in Indiana would be that consistent minutes -- something Diogu has struggled to get in any of his myriad stops in the NBA -- can help Hansbrough refine his game at this level, and that consistency on the sidelines can help refine Hansbrough's role. Unfortunately, neither hope is off to a great start: injuries have limited Hansbrough's stability, and unless Frank Vogel has a few more bunnies in his top hat, Psycho T will have his third NBA head coach next fall. Hansbrough isn't simply like Diogu on the court; right now, he's suffering the fate off of it, too.