The development of Roy Hibbert is perhaps the largest issue in Pacers Nation this season. Danny’s regression from last year has been troubling, but I think we are all still confident about what Indy has in Granger: a not-quite-elite-but-damn-close scorer who is (a) one of the best shooters in the league, (b) can more than hold his own on the defensive end, and (c) is signed to a very reasonable, long-term contract.
What we don’t know exactly yet is whether or not Hibbert can ever become that dependable third player that the Pacers will need alongside Danny and [insert name of marquee free agent acquisition/draft pick here] if they want to get back to Eastern Conference Finals contender status and turn Larry Bird’s “three-year plan” faux-rebuild into anything more than a waste of everyone’s time.
From all the game recaps and the other mid-year analysis stuff we’ve been doing of late, you should already have a good idea of how we here at 8p9s feel about Roy. But to add to some other perspectives, we figured we would reach out to some of the best NBA writers/bloggers around and see what they thought of the big fella. Here is a sampling of what some of the most intelligent NBA minds I know think about Mr. Hibbert.
Tom Lewis, Indy Cornrows
It’s been nice to see Hibbert’s game gradually evolve as his minutes have gradually increased. Envisioning a future with Roy as a third scoring option, with a reliable post game and a 17-foot-driving-opponents-nuts shot is a reality — well, that is if the Pacers can find a legit first and second scoring option.
Hibbert works hard on his game and seeing the post moves already becoming routine and the 15-footer becoming more of a reality is proof. Whenever I saw his pregame work in his rookie season, he was working on that Smits-special, mid-range shot. It always looked good but he rarely shot it during games. This year, when he’s open, the shot is up. Now he just has to work on finding his rhythm and not rushing the shot.
Another improvement this year has been Hibbert’s ability to stay on the court. He hasn’t figured out the whole defensive thing, but he seems to have figured out how to avoid the senseless fouls that tethered him to the bench so much last year. So, the physical developments along with the great spirit and effort he brings to the roster make him a popular player and a player worth investing the time in developing, just as long as the expectations remain reasonable.
Tom Ziller, NBA FanHouse & Sactown Royalty
That Roy Hibbert can block shots and score a bit in the NBA isn’t surprising: that’s what he did at Georgetown. Given his size and hands, you would’ve hoped he could rebound better than he has. But if you followed his college career, you wouldn’t have held your breath. And that’s really the problem with Hibbert: the Pacers, to be competitive, have to play Roy next to a dirty-work power forward, someone who can soak up the defensive rebounds and defend away from the hoop. But dirty work power forwards don’t tend to score much, and Hibbert probably can’t ever do much better than 15 points a game, so you’re putting oodles of pressure on Danny Granger and the backcourt to score a load of points every night. (This is why Troy Murphy — a rebounding scorer — is actually a good fit next to Hibbert, record be damned.) Certainly, for a mid-first round pick, Hibbert is on track. But if you were hoping for a franchise center, well then you need to keep looking.
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop & ClipperBlog
I think a lot of people slept on Hibbert because he was an older player who came to an increasingly perimeter-oriented league with a traditional big man skill set. I caught a little of that game against New Orleans and a couple of things stood out:
- Hibbert has very soft hands and is able to catch the ball in traffic then finish. This makes him a valuable pick-and-roll guy, which, in most systems around the league, is 50 percent of a center’s grade.
- There were a couple of times when he sealed off Okafor beautifully after Emeka fronted him. Hibbert waited patiently until the ball went to the other side of the floor then spun around Okafor to get the angle for the entry pass and then finished.
- Like his up-and-under move. Not much power, though.
- Understands where he’s supposed to be on the basketball court moment to moment. Knows when he needs to clear and drag his guy out. Defensively, adopting more of Camby/basket protector game. Haven’t studied him enough defending the pick-and-roll to get a feel for how well he’s doing in that capacity.
Need to watch more of RH. For obvious reasons, I don’t tune in much to the Pacers (those two games vs. the Clips were enough).
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game & Hardwood Paroxysm
Roy Hibbert’s game is tasteful. Understated. He’s the rug that really brings the room together. He’s the type of guy that you could walk all over every day without giving him a second’s notice, but if that guy/rug were to be, say, stolen? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story.
I get the vibe that Hibbert will end up living out the rest of his career in more or less the same way: he’ll continue to contribute as a dying breed of dinosaur center, and said contributions will be perennially undervalued. Roy’s weaknesses are so well-defined (rebounding, fouling, lateral movement) that they often obscure his strengths. I don’t know if he’s mobile enough to be a game-changer on the defensive end, but how many centers in this league can hit that drop-step hook on a regular basis? It’s well into the single digits, and puts Hibbert in some good company (Yao, Bogut, Gasol & Gasol, Kaman, Jefferson).
Roy’s no star, but he’s certainly a starting caliber center if he can keep his fouls down. And he’s just 23! I worry about how low his ceiling may be, but look at the per minute comparison between Hibbert, Pau and Marc Gasol, and Chris Kaman at age 23 (or 24 for Marc, because of his late arrival in the NBA). Roy is killing it with the blocks, and is essentially on pace in every other significant statistical category. This guy is going to be good (maybe not Pau Gasol good, but good enough), if the Pacers are willing to be patient.
John Karalis, Red’s Army
Right now, Roy Hibbert is both sides of the same coin. Forget game-to-game … he’s at a point right now where you might not know what you’ll get from possession-to-possession. But that’s no shock. Young NBA big men are about as consistent as the Wu Tang Clan nowadays: equal parts stunning and crappy all in the same package. Especially when the surrounding cast is … let’s say … questionable.
But Hibbert has shown enough to prove he belongs in the League. While he can use more polish on the post, he’s show he’s nimble enough right now to get his shot off. While he could probably stand work on his conditioning, he’s been out there on the break. He’ll grab a few rebounds. He’ll block a few shots. He is, in short, an NBA center.
And in time he’ll become a better NBA center. He might never become a double-double machine. I’d say he could be a 13-15 ppg/8-9 rpg guy. He’ll ultimately be the kind of center that you won’t have to worry about. And with the right players around him, he might have stretches where he’s better than that.
Zach Harper, Talk Hoops, Cowbell Kingdom & Hardwood Paroxysm
This is going to sound like an insult but Roy Hibbert reminds me of Rasho Nesterovic. He needs a big man like Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan next to him thrive. Now clearly, those are once (well, twice) in a lifetime time big men to get paired with. However, Roy Hibbert seems like he’ll grow into the perfect complimentary big man. I see him figuring out how to be a secondary big man the same way Kendrick Perkins does. He’s very solid all the way around. Obviously, the closer he is to the basket, the better he is as most centers tend to be. He’s not a good rebounder, but he’s not really all that bad. He’s a decent defender. He can score the ball competently. With the way the center position has deteriorated over the last decade, he’s easily a starting center in this league. He (or Larry Bird, rather) needs to find him a really good power forward to play off of. When that happens, you’ll see him blossom into a valuable asset.
Marcel Mutoni, SLAM
I watched a half of the game. The rape and pillaging was indeed delightful to witness (Ed note: Marcel likes him some Lakers). Below are my hastily assembled notes:
- Pacers’ color analyst mentioned that Bynum and Gasol made Roy Hibbert “uncomfortable.” This, from what I could tell, consisted mostly of Andrew and Pau simply putting their arms up.
- Though a solid scorer (tonight was his 23rd double-digit scoring game, matching last season’s total) Hibbert is an awful rebounder. For a big man — hell, the tallest dude on the team — his production on the boards is truly abysmal.
- Clunky, yet effective moves in the post. Even unleashed a poor man’s Kareem skyhook at one point. Also showed some surprising range on an 18-footer late in 3rd quarter.
- Needs to work on assertiveness. Not once did I feel like I was watching a 7-footer.
- Hibbert’s future is a bright one: numbers up from last year in every meaningful statistical category. If he can stay healthy (missed 12 games last season), there’s no reason he won’t continue to improve. Just gotta figure out that whole rebounding thing, and he’ll be fine.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder
On the surface, Roy Hibbert isn’t all that impressive. He appears to lumber up and down the floor, looks unathletic and his overall demeanor seems a little — what’s the word? — lazy. But when OKC played Indiana a month ago, I was absolutely impressed. Hibbert was dominant in college mainly because he was bigger than everyone else. And I think he had some difficulty adapting to not being able to muscle everyone when he arrived in the NBA.
But he’s developed some serious skills. His hands are remarkably soft. He’s deceptively athletic (he pulled a pretty up-and-under against the Thunder that was surprisingly pretty). His technique is solid and he does a solid job using his size to find a comfortable spot on the post. His footwork is improved, and he pulled out a nice little drop-step move and a baby hook that were basically undefendable.
I don’t think Hibbert is going to be the next GREAT Georgetown big man, but he’s a quality player. And he’s the type of guy at least 20 other teams would love to have. He’s a big man that can rebound, score on the block and defend the rim. He got into foul trouble in OKC and Thunder fans were thankful for it, because OKC simply didn’t have an answer.