Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

February 9, 2009

No Player is Irreplaceable–Except Robbie Hummel

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:58 pm

Yesterday Purdue suffered their worst defeat of the season–worse even than their loss to Duke–falling to Illinois 66-48 in Champaign. For the Boilermakers it was the second consecutive game they’ve played without sophomore Robbie Hummel, who continues to suffer from a stress fracture in his vertebrae (which hurts just to say).

It’s never easy playing without your star player, of course, but even within this select category Hummel is particularly tough to replace. Not because he’s on-track to be the next LeBron talent-wise but because of the widely varied tasks at which he excels for Matt Painter. No other Purdue player comes close to being as good as Hummel on the defensive glass. And no other Purdue player comes close to being as prolific as Hummel from outside the arc. 

Little surprise, then, that the Boilers are 6-1 in the Big Ten with Hummel playing and 0-3 without him. What’s more Purdue’s performance across the board–offense, defense, shooting, rebounding, everything–has been day-and-night better when Hummel plays. True, the numbers are a bit shaky here because of the small “without Hummel” sample and because the young man has had the impeccable good sense to sit out three road games. Nevertheless the yawning differences in defensive rebounding and in three-point shooting with and without Hummel are instructive. With Hummel the Boilers make threes and take care of the defensive glass. Without him they don’t. 

I usually steer clear of year-end MVP discussions because they always start with a pompous dweeb raising a smug finger: “Are we talking most valuable, or best?” Life’s too short for such labored and tendentious distinctions, so I flee from this kind of discursive navel-gazing–just as I avoid Pier One stores and commercials with Billy Mays. (Except, of course, for this awesome one for ESPN360.com.)

In the case of Robbie Hummel, however, my friend the pompous dweeb has a point. Hummel may not be the best player in the Big Ten but he is without a doubt the most valuable player to his team. With him, Purdue would be pushing Michigan State for the title. Without him, the Spartans can breathe much easier. 

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