Poor shooting overall and some serious ball control issues against Milwaukee last Friday notwithstanding, Roy Hibbert is having a fine season. Josh McRoberts, aside from a tough game during a blowout win against Philly, has also played well in somewhat limited minutes. Even Tyler Hansbrough, who is still a rookie experience-wise, has been a decent spark-plug off the bench in the moments when he isn’t getting lost on defense.
Other than that, the Pacers have some serious big man issues.
We all knew James Posey would see some time at the four. So far, he has given the team nothing in terms of actual production. Danny Granger will likely see some more time at PF as well. We knew this would happen after Troy Murphy was traded away and no outside replacement was brought in, but I think we also know that even Jim O’Brien doesn’t think this is a viable long-term solution.
Then there is Solomon Jones. Who has been a disaster.
In 58 minutes so far this season, he has 3 rebounds, 10 points, 0 blocked shots and 14 personal fouls. Not only is that not helping the team win, it is directly increasing the chances that the Pacers will lose. The guy has been a pretty good shot-blocker the past two seasons, so expect his blocks-per-minute totals to revert back to the mean before much longer. But the rest of the stuff is likely going to stay ugly. He has never shown any ability to rebound or put points on the board when given minutes since he entered the NBA in 2006.
And thus we delve into one of the key storylines of the early season: the Pacers simply have a lot of trouble competing when Roy Hibbert is not on the floor.
Overall, Indiana has outscored its opponent by 32 points when Hibbert is in the game. When he sits? The team has been outscored by 59. If Roy had played exactly 50% of the minutes possible, that +32/-59 disparity would be bad enough. But the big fella, free from the minute-restriction shackles that his conditioning and foul-prone ways have imposed in the past (not to mention O’Brien at times), has played 166 of the total 240 minutes of the Pacers seasons thus far — meaning he has been playing for nearly 70% of all game action.
What are the Pacers to do presuming Jeff Foster is not going to be ready to fill in any time real soon and Solomon Jones isn’t going to turn into Connie Hawkins even sooner?
Given the fact that they have a 15-man roster, it would seem as though making a move for the now-available (and former Pacers first-round draft pick) Erick Dampier might not be possible. Considering he reportedly might want to head to Toronto, it might be even less possible.
Still, the three-man rotation of Hibbert, McRoberts and Hansbrough doesn’t seem like nearly enough. So whether or not Dampier himself is a actually viable option to scoop off the free agent pile, it seems clear that Indiana needs someone like Dampier to mop up the minutes that Roy is off the court with unspectacular, but serviceable play.
Dampier would immediately be the most imposing defender the Pacers could put in the paint. He would also be their best rebounder. Of all NBA centers last year, Dampier ranked 22nd in overall rebounding percentage (the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor). Such a ranking — nor his actual percentage of 17.9% — is not going to blow anyone away. But compared to Roy Hibbert’s woeful 12.4% — good for 74th last year … among centers — that part of the game would likely improve when Dampier was spelling Roy.
Again, I don’t think the Pacers have a legitimate chance to sign Dampier.
But it is increasingly starting to seem like the team may have to use one of its expiring contracts to acquire a back-up center if they actually do want to make a serious run at the playoffs this year. That may not be the best course of action, but it’s hard to see the Pacers scaring any other team with a big man rotation consisting solely of Roy, two inexperienced PFs, Solomon Jones, perhaps a refurbished Jeff Foster and a couple of SFs playing out of position (Danny and Posey).
And, yes, I know they have only played five games.
But barring a major evolution by both Josh and Tyler really soon, do you see anything changing in the near future?