Player Review 2014: Roy Hibbert

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by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

June 12, 2014

Age: 27 Years Pro: 6 Status: Has two years remaining on his contract, with a player option for 2015-16. Key Stats: Averaged 10.8 points during the regular season and 9.3 points during the playoffs. Rebounding average dropped from 8.3 to 6.6 and blocked shots from 2.6 to 2.2.

How do you explain Roy Hibbert? What do you do with Roy Hibbert? Who is Roy Hibbert?

Equally important: What about his teammates?

Six years into his NBA career, the 7-2 conundrum is as mysterious as ever. Is he an All-Star capable of leading a team through a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Finals? Or, is he a non-star who failed to score in four postseason games?

Hibbert has been both, and therefore neither on anything resembling a consistent basis. For all the conversation devoted to Danny Granger's trade, Andrew Bynum's signing, Lance Stephenson’s antics, and Frank Vogel's lineups, Hibbert's inconsistency was the greater factor in the outcome of games. The All-Star's occasional disappearing act from the offense – six scoreless games in the last 23, playoffs included – created a vacuum too great to fill most of the time. The Pacers split the two regular season games in which he failed to score, and lost three of the four playoff games.

Hibbert's regular season wasn't much different than in 2012-13. He played one more minute per game and averaged one less point (10.8) because he took 105 fewer shots overall. His postseason slide was far more dramatic, though. His scoring average dropped from 17 to 9.3, his field goal percentage from 51 to 45. All in all, it was the least productive of his four postseasons.

Hibbert struggled with his shrinking role in the offense. Paul George and Lance Stephenson both grabbed larger helpings of the pie, meaning someone had to take less. That turned out to be Hibbert and George Hill, who took 255 fewer shots than the previous season.

Hibbert, being a highly-paid All-Star, understandably struggled with the harsh math. Prior to his infamous “we've got some selfish dudes” appraisal to a national reporter after a loss at Washington on March 28, he had aired his feelings more specifically following a win over Philadelphia, in which he got up just eight shots.

“I can't be selfish,” he said then. “Somebody has to sacrifice. I have to sacrifice for this team. Would anybody like to get 15 shots a game? Yeah. You're a human being and you have feelings, but you have to play through it and do what's best for the team.”

Hibbert's conscience seemed to wage a battle between sacrifice and assertiveness. He has an argument for more shots, though. The Pacers were at their best when the offense was balanced, and 7-2 in the playoffs when he scored in double figures. The challenge of the Pacers' offense is that they have no role player who doesn't expect to get shots. That means players will have to take turns in that role, depending on matchups and flow. Hibbert obviously wishes it wasn't him quite as often.

Still, the burden is on him to expand his repertoire and give teammates more reasons to toss him the ball now and then. He also needs to avoid letting his frustrations on offense bleed into his defense and rebounding. He averaged 8.8 rebounds two seasons ago, 8.3 last season and 6.6 in this one. He averaged 2.6 blocks last season, 2.2 in this one. Those stats shouldn't be connected to shot attempts, but Vogel and Hibbert's teammates made no secret of the need to get him shots early so that he does the dirty work later. It seemed telling that his season-high rebounding total, 16, came in the season-opener. He never grabbed more than 14 the rest of the season. He reached double figure rebounds just twice in the final 37 regular season games, and just twice in the playoffs – both against Miami.

While some fans have called for Hibbert to be traded, it's unlikely the Pacers could get a better player for him. They remain a legitimate contender when playing at their peak level, and he's a vital part of that. He also has a proven ability to adapt and improve.

“I think Roy’s got to put in another good summer,” team president Larry Bird said. “Around All-Star time, after he made the All-Star team and even before that, he didn’t play well for a long period of time. Why? I don’t know. I talked to Roy briefly a number of times and just tried to … He would always ask me what I see. 'What do you see? What do you see?' I would tell him, but I’d like to see Roy more consistent.

“I thought the first half of the season, he was very active, he contested a lot of shots just playing big. Maybe he didn’t block the shot, but guys were missing around the rim. But when Roy loses his confidence, he struggles at times. I hope he can come back strong. I hope he can do the things necessary to get better.”

A lot is riding on that. Teammates might have to meet him halfway for it to happen.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.