Roy Hibbert Is Protecting the Paint — Now He Needs to Start Scoring In It

[Please join us in welcoming new contributor Avi Freeman to the site. This is his first post for 8p9s.]

Going into the playoffs I expected Roy Hibbert to go off offensively and average over 20 points per game against a Dwight Howard-less Magic team. He didn’t do that, but what he did do was become a defensive monster. Against a team missing Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert played like Dwight Howard defensively. He took ownership over the paint and didn’t allow anyone inside “Painted Area 55” without making sure they left with no intentions of returning.

It wasn’t just the 3.8 blocks he averaged per game, it was the presence he had whenever any Magic player attempted entering the paint. He made sure anyone entering the paint knew they would have to fight if they wanted any chance of scoring. He didn’t give up on plays and was just a dominant force defensively.

In Game Five the Pacers held a 46-22 lead in points in the paint. Roy Hibbert was the main reason. It is probably no coincidence that Hibbert’s most impressive block of the series came in the third quarter of this game, when Glen Davis appeared to have a wide open dunk until Roy swatted it away.

As of right now, Roy Hibbert is leading the NBA in defensive rating during this season’s playoffs. And I know we’ve only (mostly) completed one round of the playoffs, but his 86.3 rating currently stands fourth all time in single season defensive rating during the playoffs.

Def Rating – ’12 Playoffs
1. Roy Hibbert, IND 86.3
2. Kevin Garnett, BOS 87.3
3. Tim Duncan, SAS 88.4
4. Rajon Rondo, BOS 89.5
5. Dwyane Wade, MIA 92.1

Roy has also been great at grabbing down rebounds, averaging over 10.8 per game. He has stepped up his defensive rebounding in particular thus far. With a 24.7 defensive rebound rate (the percent of available boards he has grabbed during his time on the court while playing defense), he grabbed nearly a quarter of all the shots the Magic missed in the first round. This is a big jump from the 20.7% he brought down in the regular season (and a huge leap from his 18.4%.)

Block Pct – ’12 Playoffs
1. Roy Hibbert, IND 12.0
2. Serge Ibaka, OKC 9.3
3. DeAndre Jordan, LAC 8.4
4. JaVale McGee, DEN 8.0
5. Andrew Bynum, LAL 6.7

Now that Roy has shown that he can be a beast defensively, he has to find a way to work that in along with his offense. In the Magic series, while he only had 11 points per game, he shot 53% from the field. This was also an improvement from the regular season, during which he shot 49.7%.

This shows that he probably wasn’t getting enough touches. In Game Four we saw David West starting to demand the ball, and he scored 26 points while doing so.

Blocks – ’12 Playoffs
1. Andrew Bynum, LAL 22
2. Roy Hibbert, IND 19
3. JaVale McGee, DEN 17
4. Elton Brand, PHI 15
5. Serge Ibaka, OKC 13
Pau Gasol, LAL 13

Roy Hibbert needs to learn that sometimes he, too, needs to demand the ball and not be so passive offensively.

He was widely criticized for his disappearing act in the first round in last year’s playoffs against the Bulls. In that five-game series, he took 45 shots (and 17 free throws). In five games aginst the Magic, he took just 43 (and only 14 free throws).

His defensive dominance means that nobody should be criticizing his overall performance against Orlando — which, it must be noted, did use defensive schemes that specifically tried to keep the Pacers from working them over in the post. But it is hard to see the Pacers thriving against a team as good, and soft inside, as Miami if Hibbert cannot produce more on the offensive end.

I believe will Roy Hibbert start consistently playing above expectations on both offense and defense. If he can, in the spotlight of aplayoff series against the Heat, he will certainly take a few steps forward in the conversation of the best centers in the league. And as a restricted free agent this summer, he will also likely make a lot more money in his next contract.

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Tags: 2012 Playoffs Miami Heat Orlando Magic Roy Hibbert

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