Indiana Pacers 2013-14 Player Review: Roy Hibbert

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

A year after wondering if the All-Star center's impressive productivity in the 2013 ECF was an accurate representation of the 7 footer's true self, the identity of the real Roy Hibbert still remains a mystery.

Roy Hibbert / Center / Age 27

2014/15 Contract Status: $14,898,938

Regular Season:

81 GS, 29.7 MP, .439 FG%, .770 FT%, 2.5 ORB, 6.6 TRB, 1.1 AST, 2.2 BLK, 10.8 PPG

Per 36 minutes:

81 GS, 2409 MP, .439 FG%, .770 FT%, 3.0 ORB, 8.0 TRB, 1.4 AST, 2.7 BLK, 13.0 PPG

After an absolutely stellar showing in the 2013 playoffs, the big question surrounding the Pacers' center heading into this season was if the high-level of production he achieved during the team's postseason run (17.0 PPG, 4.7 ORB, 9.9 TRB, 1.9 BLK) was an accurate representation of the real Roy Hibbert. Though he was unable to duplicate those exact numbers, the Big Dawg showed flashes here and there of the 7-footer that dominated the 2013 ECF at season's start.

In the month of November, Hibbert was at his finest, averaging 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks while allowing an absolutely stingy 89.0 points per 100 possessions. During that span of fourteen games, the Pacers went 13-1 and Hibbert recorded a plus/minus of +18.5. Through the first half of the season, Roy showcased his ability to turn over both shoulders, post-up, competently shoot from midrange, and defend the paint. He soon became a front-runner for the Defensive Player of the Year award and he was selected as a reserve for the league's 63rd Annual All-Star game held in New Orleans.

Perhaps loosely, Roy's game-to-game productivity can accurately serve as a barometer for the play of the 2014 Indiana Pacers. Not unlike his team, Hibbert's numbers steadily declined post All-Star break. Once a plus +18.5 in the month of November, the Pacers' All-Star center recorded a plus/minus of +9.5 in January, -5.0 in March, and he eventually bottomed-out at a woeful -9.5 over the team's final six games in April. After scoring 103.0 points per 100 possessions and allowing just 89.0 points per 100 possessions in November, Roy's defense suffered along with his offense in the latter portion of the season. Most notably once again in April, when he recorded an ORtg of 65 matched with an equally poor DRtg of 111.

Pinpointing the exact identity of the real Roy Hibbert became no less challenging during the postseason. Most notably in Games 5 and 6 against the Atlanta Hawks' three-point, bombs away style offense,  the 7'2", 280lb. center struggled mightily as he scored zero points and grabbed just two rebounds. After escaping the Hawks, Roy's play remained somewhat inconsistent. On certain nights, he appeared downright dominant (i.e. Game 2 of Eastern Conference semi-finals he scored 28 points and grabbed 9 rebounds); meanwhile, in other contests he looked like a shell of the player that competed in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals (i.e. Game 4 against the Miami Heat he scored 0 points and grabbed 5 rebounds).

How did Roy Hibbert impress:

The Pacers' defense was at its finest this season when the team's various perimeter defenders were funneling their opponent's guards to the middle of the paint where Mr. Verticality was laying in wait. Roy may have been vulnerable against teams that play in the open court (i.e. Phoenix, Denver, Sacramento) and he clearly struggled, at times, to defend stretch fives (Chris Bosh, Pero Antic, etc.). However, that should not necessarily detract from the fact that he was, statistically speaking, the best rim protector in the league this season. The Pacers' center earned every bit of his spot on the All-Defensive Second Team by leading the league in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (41.9%) and anchoring the NBA's best defense.

How did Roy Hibbert disappoint:

First and foremost, Roy made a mistake when he chose to air the team's dirty laundry publicly instead of keeping things in-house. When he complained to NBA.com's David Aldridge about having some "selfish dudes" in the locker room, he invited unnecessary media scrutiny that never quite dissipated. At the time, Hibbert admitted to being frustrated with his team's departure from their inside-out style of play and he criticized their inability to move the basketball. A report from ESPN's Mike Wells and Brian Windhorst later surfaced which revealed that the Pacers' center was somewhat displeased with Lance Stephenson's alleged stat-hunting and supposed absences from team meetings.

From the numbers, it appears that the team's failure to involve him in the offense post All-Star break may have impacted his play on both ends of the court. Hibbert even went so far as to admit this to Aldridge stating, "I was letting the lack of touches on offense really affect my defense."

The pressure he heaped upon his shoulders and the distraction his comments produced for his team can both likely be considered as mitigating factors in his second half swoon.

With his productivity on the decline after returning from his trip to the All-Star game, his offensive numbers made a u-turn on the season. Over 81 games started, he averaged just 10.8 points (the lowest average since his rookie year) and he shot just 43.9% from the field (the lowest mark of his six-year professional career). After grabbing 14.8% (good for second in the league) of his team's available offensive rebounds during the 2013 season, that number plummeted to 9.9%.

Whether due to perceived lack of touches, defensive adjustments, or simply just a poor center of gravity, Roy oftentimes failed to establish low post position and seemed to become somewhat complacent with either remaining a non-factor on offense or relying on his inconsistent jumper from midrange. When examining his field goal distribution this season, 44.2% of his shots were attempted from between 3-10 ft. of the basket despite only shooting 41.7% from that distance. Even more confounding is the fact that Hibbert only attempted 24.5% of his shots from 0-3 ft of the basket even though he was markedly more accurate from that distance (54.6%). While Hibbert was more reliable from 0-3 ft, he shot just 41.4% on post-ups and 37.% on tip shots, lending credence to Larry Bird's advice that Hibbert seek the aid of one of the "greats" such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Bill Walton.

What's Next:

Now a year since the 2013 ECF, there is still no definitive answer as to the identity of the real Roy Hibbert. Is he the jovial All-Star who patrols the paint and averaged 17 points and 9.9 rebounds during his team's 2013 playoff run, or is he the more passive, disgruntled 7'2" center that is at times marginalized by his team's offense and failed to score a single point in four games this postseason?

The truth about his capabilities likely lies somewhere in the middle.

After a disappointing end to the season, an early report from ESPN's Marc Stein indicated that Hibbert has not officially requested a trade, but "wouldn't exactly oppose" one either. Due to his declining numbers, lack of an expiring contract, and upcoming player option after next season, the Pacers would likely only get cents on the dollar from any team willing to make a swap.

Since the Pacers owe their center upwards of $30M over the next two years, they are likely hoping to see a refreshed version of Roy that not only resembles the defensively dominant and engaged big man that fans were able to enjoy in the month of November (averaging 12.5 points and 8.7 rebounds, while allowing just 89 points per 100 possessions), but also a player who has heeded Larry Bird's advice to seek the tutelage of a Hall of Famer.

***

What grade would you assess Roy Hibbert for the 2013-2014 season and postseason? Who do you think is the real Roy Hibbert?

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