How did Roy Hibbert impress?
Roy Hibbert was impressive both on and off the court during his rookie season with the Indiana Pacers. When the 7'2" center was drafted last summer, he had all the earmarks of a project center. While he had the size, he appeared too slow and too clumsy for the Pacers to rely on right away. His great attitude and work ethic were touted, so I for one figured it would be a year or two before Hibbert offered any sort of impact on a game which was fine considering his potential. A best case scenario was to use Roy's size in the paint as a defensive presence and not worry about any offensive contributions.
As it turned out, Roy's offensive game was far more ready for the NBA than his defensive game, but he had enough game to play in 70 games this year, including a starting role 42 times. Many of those starts were out of desperation due to injuries or illness on the team, but over the last couple of months Roy had earned more playing time and his starting role was justified.
Working from the post Hibbert's offensive moves were a bit mechanical and often times awkward, but they were also quite effective. When he gathered himself and didn't rush, Hibbert showed nice touch around the basket with a little jumper and one-handed hook shot. Don't get me wrong, Hibbert has many hours left to log in the gym before his post game is polished and reliable, but the baseline displayed in his first year was promising. After watching him shooting in workout drills before games, I can see Hibbert developing into a Rik Smits type player. Actually, Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas may be the perfect comparison I'm looking for. The skill to shoot is there, it just wasn't high on the pecking order of offensive options for the Pacers this year. Once Roy's shot is ready for prime time, he'll be able to force an honest defense of the pick and roll by knocking down 15-18 foot shots.
Hibbert also impressed with his ability and willingness to pass the ball. His time spent in the Princeton offense at Georgetown certainly helped, as Roy showed the ability to hit a back door cutter with a bounce pass through traffic. If anything, he was a little too confident with his ability at times. Passes that may have been converted in college were swallowed up by quicker defenders in the NBA. That's just a matter of adjusting to the NBA game and figuring out opponents strengths and where teammates need the ball, but the skill set to pass the ball effectively from the high or low post his there as another nice asset to develop.
So while I was impressed with Hibbert's offensive game on the court, his work ethic and affable personality are also worthy of mention. When relegated to the bench by foul trouble or JOB, Hibbert was always up, cheering his teammates, greeting them on the floor at timeouts, doing whatever he could to support the team from the bench. I wouldn't dub his personality as dynamic, but instead warm and friendly. He's equally at ease talking with anyone, whether through a microphone during a media interview or with a fan on the street. He's quick with a response and has a subtle, self-deprecating humor which has endeared him to fans since draft day. That much is evident from the loud cheers Roy attracts at the Fieldhouse for any positive play he makes. Hopefully those cheers will be more frequent next year as he spends more time on the court making plays.
While Hibbert exceeded my expectation in his rookie year, his struggles on the defensive end were certainly an area of disappointment. It wasn't for a lack of effort, but in some cases, he tried too hard to make defensive plays only to wind up out of position in no man's land with no option but to foul. And foul he did.
Hibbert heard more tweets than Shaq's Twitter account. Until March, it seemed like Hibbert always picked up his second foul before the first timeout. So considering all of the games played and starts, Roy still only averaged 14:24 minutes per game because the foul trouble kept him tethered to the bench. Jim O'Brien usually kept Roy on the bench after an early foul binge, but as the season wore on, Hibbert did improve and had several strong games late in the year where foul trouble wasn't an issue.
Hibbert still has a lot of work to do, though. While he showed a willingness to rotate and take a charge or block a shot, Hibbert's timing and anticipation were usually a half step slow. Part of that was being a rookie and having to think too much about what to do within the team defensive scheme. Even if you're doing the right thing within the scheme, if you react late it's quickly the wrong thing. Having a reputation for fouling as a rookie further exasperated the problem. He wasn't about to get the benefit of a close call which was often the difference between being sent to the bench with three fouls or staying on the court with two.
Sweat. Lots of sweat.
Hibbert showed plenty of potential to be considered a building block for future Pacer teams. This summer he has to employ his respected work ethic to add more options to his offensive game and polish his footwork and touch around the bucket. Defensively, it's about reps and confidence to at least get to a point where he's just playing and reacting instinctively instead of relying on a "checklist" of thoughts. For instance, Granger is caught fighting over a screen, Murph helps contain the drive, so I have to rotate to Murph's man. Oops, too late. More experience will allow Hibbert to anticipate these types of situations before they occur instead of as they occur. The split-second difference will help Roy be able to use his size as an asset on defense.
The development Hibbert shows this summer will have a huge impact on the immediate success of the Pacers next year. With Rasho Nesterovic leaving town, Roy and Jeff Foster are left to hold down the post. The team will likely add at least one more post player, but the opportunity is there for Hibbert to seize plenty of playing time, but first he has to cease drawing the referee's whistle so early and often.
|2008 - Roy Hibbert||70||14.4||2.8||6.0||47.1||0.0||0.0||0.0||1.4||2.1||66.7||1.6||1.8||3.5||0.7||0.8||0.3||1.1||3.1||7.1|