Why to Feel Good About 80 Percent of the Pacers Starters

How should we feel about this team? Should we be happy about the competitive play, even though the Pacers can’t finish a game? Should we be concerned that Chicago can toy with Indiana for 46 minutes and then always finishes strong?

I think we should be encouraged by the play of this team. When one considers the cap space the team has available this offseason, they can afford to get the type of closer that the Pacers need to finish these games. And looking at the individual starters for the Pacers in this series brings lots of encouraging signs and the potential for a bright future.

Darren Collison really has looked good running the team. His 46.4% shooting percentage has helped the team, but there is no question that he has been a player that the Pacers need on the floor. He needs to work on getting more than 13 assists in two and a half games, but Collison has been a steadying influence on the blue and gold.

Danny Granger is averaging 21.3 points per game, while shooting 49.1% from the field. Granger has stepped up in this series. He was so hot in the fourth quarter of game three that Chicago began to double team him. Granger had the ball at the end of game four, but the Pacers need to make the Bulls pay for double teams by giving him a reliable outlet.

Paul George has been a revelation in this series. His dreadful 22.2% shooting has been overcome by the fact that he is the best defender on the Pacers to cover Derrick Rose. Think about that, a guy George’s size covering the fast, shifty Rose? In conversation, Tim Donahue has compared George to Derrick McKey. For those of you who remember the ex-Pacer, McKey could guard all five positions at times.

Outside of Game 1, Tyler Hansbrough has shot the ball poorly in this series, with an overall 34.9% field goal percentage. If that had happened in mid-season he would have been a non-factor. Instead, he is completely in Carlos Boozer’s head. Make no mistake, Boozer’s trash talking bravado aside, this guy hates playing against Psycho T. That’s something that should make every Pacer fan feel warm and fuzzy.

Now, for something that should not make us feel warm and fuzzy, we move on to Roy Hibbert. Hibbert is among the most popular Pacers. Unfortunately, if he’s not shooting well he’s pretty much useless on the floor. Other than a quick start to game one, he has been dreadful in this series. His 38.5% overall shooting percentage is not as bad as Hansbrough’s or George’s, but then you quickly realize that Hibbert is also shooting 38.5% (5-13) from point blank range in the low post. In game three, nine of Hibbert’s 12 shots were within 10 feet of the basket.

These numbers make Hibbert’s comments after Game 3 to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star all the more puzzling.

“I’m not getting it where I want it,” said Hibbert. “I don’t want to shoot jump shots. I want to get it in the paint, get it on the block. We’re running other stuff.”

My eyes beg to differ.

The Pacers have consistently tried to get the ball to Hibbert in the low post. Even Hansbrough and Granger, not noted for giving the ball up to teammates, have passed the ball down low to get Hibbert rolling.

The plain and simple fact is that Hibbert has not responded. When you are a low post player, you must establish position and demand the ball. Hibbert has not been doing this on a consistent basis. It’s not a question of Joakim Noah’s defense. It’s a problem that has been there all year.

Fired Pacers coach Jim O’Brien consistently tried to make sure Hibbert got the ball. Hibbert didn’t respond with stellar play. In fact, he had long stretches of poor play in both December and January as the team went into a tail spin. After interim coach Frank Vogel took over, the team had an initial bounce and then Hibbert disappeared again. At that time, it was the re-emergence of Hansbrough in the starting lineup that kick-started the team again.

Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote this after Game 3:

“This is who the Pacers are right now: a half-formed lump of clay, a young, incomplete team that desperately needs a low-post presence who can take over late-game situations.”

I don’t always agree with what Kravitz writes, but he couldn’t be more on the money here. Who do you think that paragraph was directed at?

You know the answer.

Hibbert.

His contract will be up after the 2011-12 season (if the impending lockout doesn’t kill next season). How much is Hibbert worth right now?

I certainly would not pay big money to a center who can’t score in the low post when the going gets tough. For most of this season, Hibbert’s play was a microcosm of this team. When things were easy Hibbert and the Pacers would perform well. When there were no expectations on the team, you could count on a good game. If the going got tough they would fold like a cheap tent. That’s how you end up with the staggering number of double-digit losses that this team had this year. Under both O’Brien and Vogel that was a problem.

Now, things seem to have changed. This is a team that is fighting through tough times and making life difficult until the end of three consecutive playoff games for the team with the best record in the NBA.

It would be nice if their center joined the rest of the starters and came along for the ride.

Tags: Chicago Bulls Pacers Vs. Bulls 2011 Playoffs Pacers Vs. Bulls 2011 Playoffs: Game 3 Roy Hibbert

  • Christian

    Good summary Alex.

    I’m interested to hear more of your thoughts on Hibbert. Your paragraph is fair, but it does talk about him in a vacuum. I mean, it is not necessarily that the Pacers have to have him be a scorer to be successful. If they got a PF who can score, that solves the issue of low post scoring. In that scenario, Hibbert can focus on being a defender and rebounder. His height is valuable (and rare). However, this would assume that we believe he CAN get better at those things. And without getting a PF, it would assume Hans can fill the scoring role down low which is unlikely considering his size.

    When you look at all positions, my opinion is that Granger’s spot is the most expendable because of the ability that position SHOULD have to make his own shots. Whereas NBA’s history is full of examples of champs who have big man that aren’t scoring threats. Not to mention that getting someone like that would draw more double teams and be able to get the ball more easily to Hibbert in the post on a regular basis (assuming he makes his bunnies). So, in the end, I find Granger to be the bigger drain on his position than Hibbert. Also, Granger has plateaud, whereas Hibbert has improved all three years–a trend that could continue.

  • eric weathers

    I agree with all of this. Hibbert has the potential to be a great center, but his confidence is.lackluster at best. I can think of five times off the top of my head where he has gotten the ball on the block with position and waited for the double team to arrive before making his move. And that is just this series. It might be time to bring out the football pads in practice and just bump him around until he has the strength and confidence to go toward the basket when a stronger man is guarding him. Rather than force that.jump hook.

    Also, I was at the game last night and there was a possession where he got the offensive board inside the low block and instead of going up hard and throwing it down, he saw contact coming and laid it up. Because he was worried about the contact he missed it and I believe boozed came up with the rebound on the other side. Pacers and hibbert have to figure out something for him.

  • Alex Yovanovich

    Christian,

    Unfortunately, having Roy Hibbert concentrate on being a defender is not going to cut it. He is not a good defender. Hibbert often gets himself in bad defensive position and then commits fouls that he shouldn’t because he cannot recover quickly enough. He has improved in this area from his rookie year, but he is still a liability on the defensive end of the floor. He blocks shots and that’s about it. He has to be a low post scorer to be effective or he should not be resigned.

    Take a look at game three. The Pacers were far better off at the defensive end with the Jeff Foster-Tyler Hansbrough combination than with the Hibbert-Hansbrough combination. Why was that? Foster’s a much, much better defender than Hibbert.

    You could go out and get a starting power forward and bring Hansbrough off the bench as a sixth man, but that doesn’t fix the problem of having a center who is not going to be your low post scorer. Hibbert can’t play the high post nearly as well as Hansbrough. All you would have is a new power forward who could post up and a center with no defined role. I don’t see how that makes the team better. Besides, Hibbert’s own comments show that he believes he is the low post scorer on this team… even if he doesn’t execute that role very well.

    If you were going to trade Danny Granger, you better get a star in his place, because he’s the best thing the Pacers have going offensively. He’s not a one-on-one creator for late game heroics and he does force shots sometimes. However, if he’s not the number one option, he’s still far more valuable than anyone else on the current roster. Granger is the best outside scorer on this team. There’s no one on the Pacers that can replace that role.

    Hibbert is better than he was a rookie, but if you want to make this Hibbert vs. Granger choice, I’d take Granger 10 times out of 10.

    Fortunately, we don’t have to make such a choice. We can keep both players. We can move both players… but only if it makes this team better. All moves have to be made with an eye to making this team better. Finding a way to close out games and establish a low post presence is critical to this team’s future.

  • mathis

    im been watching your team play and man do yall have a good team. if i was your gm I’d go hard at signing Deandre Jordan. he’s a real game changer when he’s tuned in. I dont even notice Roy Hibbert is on the court until somebody passes to him

  • Timmy

    I think Jeff Foster was going nuts sitting on the bench watching a guard tear through the lane time after time, game after game. When he was in, he was determined to send a message to Rose and the Bulls – nobody is coming down the lane without getting mauled. He was spoiling for a fight, and he had a look on his face of disgust and indignation. I think he’s tired of losing to this team, and he was just taking it out on the best guy on the other team-but it may be some of his teammates that he’s really most disgusted with. I don’t know, maybe it is Roy he’s fed-up with. Foster and most others on the team seem done with being SOFT. This team is not talented enough to win a game in this series unless everyone joins the Foster’s Goon Squad for game four.

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  • Christian

    Thanks Alex. I actually missed game 3 and really a lot o reg season games one the west coast. After watching game 4 your points are right on. I guess I’m partial to guys that work as hard as Roy but he might not be the answer. He was praised for this game but his flaws are apparent. Meanwhile I’m coming back around on Granger. And I agree we’d need a real star for him in a trade. The fact is we could probably still sell high on Hibbert and sign a star with our cap space. As long as we keep Foster…

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