[SB Nation's Mike Prada put Roy Hibbert Under The Microscope in his latest Prada Pictures feature which he was kind enough to share with us. Check out the whole feature which also takes a look at Pistons' poor defense, a team the Pacers play on Saturday. - TL]
So, what's going on with Roy Hibbert?
Indiana's midseason malaise is best exemplified by its 7'2 center's tepid play of late. He emerged as the league's best defensive player and a behemoth in the middle in the first half, earning an All-Star spot. But lately, something has been off about the big man's effort, to the point where it's tough not to wonder whether he's hiding an injury.
You see this in a few areas. Hibbert's rebounding, most notably, has plummeted. He never grabbed a ton of boards -- he's more inclined to eat up space and open clearer paths to the ball for more athletic players -- but he's experienced a drop-off of late. Last year, Hibbert grabbed nearly 16 percent of available rebounds. Prior to Jan. 15, he was grabbing 14.3 percent. In his last 20 games, that percentage is down to 11.4 percent. In the last 10 games, it's at 10.9 percent.
Hibbert is just not fighting back as much against physical players on the boards. He's not really trying to push Andrew Bogut out on this sequence.
The offensive rebounding is worse. Hibbert is only snaring 7.6 percent of available offensive boards this season, nearly half of his percentage last year. This removes one of the Pacers' biggest offensive weapons and helps explain why they have struggled so much of late. Errant perimeter shots that once ended up in Hibbert's big paws are now being snared by the opponent.
This passivity has carried over to Hibbert's post game. This has never been a major strength for him, because his high center of gravity leaves him vulnerable to wide-bodied defenders, but it seems as if Hibbert is even less willing to fight for position than usual. And if he doesn't get deep position right away, he's going to launch wild, low-percentage hook shots because he struggles to push people off their spots once he gets the ball. That, or he'll do this, which is worse.
It doesn't help that Indiana's guards, save for Lance Stephenson, are poor at throwing entry passes. By the time George Hill gets this ball into Hibbert, he's been pushed well off his spot.
It's unlike Hibbert to recoil so thoroughly in the face of defensive pressure.
Worse, there have been small signs that Hibbert's funk is making an impact on his absolute best skill: rim protection. You don't see it often because he knows what he does best, but it's happening more and more in small doses as teams figure out how to attack the Pacers' defense. It's jarring to see Hibbert let Monta Ellis waltz down the lane for an easy layup here. Would that have happened two months ago?
Explaining this drop-off is difficult. We know Hibbert works his butt off and will bang with anyone. We know he spent all summer bulking up so he could handle extended minutes. He struggled at the start of last year, but that was due to his offensive touch deserting him, not any issue having to do with effort level. Perhaps Hibbert's proving the axiom that big men need to get touches in the right spots to give maximum effort elsewhere. Perhaps he's worn down from training too hard and playing too many minutes. Perhaps he really is hiding an injury.
Or, perhaps he gets it together for the playoffs and this all seems silly. But Pacers fans are right to be concerned.