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Player Review: Tyler Hansbrough

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

June 17, 2013, 10:40 AM

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Age: 27
Years Pro: 4
Status: Restricted Free Agent
Key Stats: Averaged 7 points in 16.9 minutes last season – the fewest points and least minutes of his career.

Where do we start with Tyler Hansbrough?

The starting lineup, of course.

This guy wants to start. Wants to start like a stray dog wants to find scraps of food. Wants to start like a sunflower wants rays of sunshine. Wants to start like a drowning man wants gasps of air. Wants to start like … ah, never mind, you get the idea.

He doesn't start for the Pacers, though, unless David West is unavailable, and he's not going to start for the foreseeable future if the Pacers and West consummate their re-marriage this summer with a new contract.

That puts Hansbrough's future with the team in doubt. He's a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Pacers can keep him for another year by paying him a qualifying offer of $4.22 million, or matching any offer another team makes. That's a dicey proposition. It could be argued that fellow backup power forward Jeff Pendergraph is just as valuable, and at a lower price, and that the Pacers are better off banking money that would be paid to Hansbrough for other players.

And, there's this: Hansbrough might not want to return. He dodged the question in the postgame locker room after the Pacers were eliminated by Miami, and has been quiet about his future desires. He accepted his role without complaint, but made no attempt to hide his preference for starting when he got the chance to do so.

You can't blame him. The guy was a three-time first-team all-American in college – a four-time selection if you count The Sporting News selecting him as a freshman. He's accustomed to starting, starring and having a heavy workload. Playing off the bench doesn't satisfy his manic mojo.

Hansbrough stated his case for starting during a six-game stretch in March, when he filled in for West, who had a strained back. He had four double-doubles in that run, and was within two rebounds of a fifth. Overall he started eight games during the season and averaged 14.75 points and 10.1 rebounds – production that would make him a well-paid starter in a lot of places.

Hansbrough also was the rare Pacer to play better on the road than at home, shooting significantly better from the field and foul line away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Fans appreciate Hansbrough's reckless style of play, but his game is limited. He tends to stray from the offense with his kamikaze attacks on the basket, he rarely picks up an assist and his defense is limited. He would easily qualify as a starter if he could hit mid-range jump shots, but he made only 30 percent of those this season. That's puzzling, because he hit 39 percent of his 3-point shots as a senior at North Carolina. He also hit just 34 percent of his shots within the foul lane but outside the restricted arc. Those percentages aren't likely to improve unless his tweaks his shooting form, which appears to have changed since college.

So, what do you do with a guy who averaged 7 points and 4.6 rebounds, wants to start, plays much better as a starter, but won't start for your team?

That's one of the most important questions for the Pacers' front office to answer this summer.

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