This afternoon an upstart, young Pacers team will face the favorites for the NBA Championship and perhaps the most high-profile sports team of the past ten years. It’s an exciting time for anyone with any stake in the Pacers’ organization. But one man has an exceptional amount to gain in this series: Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert will be a restricted free agent this offseason, which means that the Pacers will have an opportunity to re-sign him no matter what other front offices offer but also a possibility another franchise will sign him to an offer sheet so large that Indiana allows him to walk away.
There are a couple reasons why a lot of GMs will be watching this series and figuring out how to convince their boss to go after Mr. Hibbet. Perhaps the most important reason is pretty simple: He is 7’2 and 260 pounds. People with Hibbert’s size are, quite frankly, uncommon on this planet. This is a league where size pays. This year alone, Kwame Brown made $6.8 million, DeSagana Diop made $6.9 million, Hasheem Thabeet made $5.1 million and past-their-primes Mehmet Okur and Marcus Camby made a combined $23 million. All for only the 2011-2012 season.
Hibbert’s size, particularly when you add in his skill set, not only represents something that virtually all NBA teams lack; it represents something the Miami Heat lack. For all of the immense talent wearing a Miami Heat jersey, they do not have someone like him. Jalen Rose likes to say that there are only a couple of centers in the modern NBA that “can walk and chew gum at the same time.” It seems safe to say that Hibbert is one of those players. Avi Friedman recently did an excellent job of acknowledging the defensive impact of Hibbert while touching on his potential for offense.
Hibbert had trouble against the Heat this season, but he showed flashes of great offensive execution and aggression. Against Miami’s center-by-committee strategy, Hibbert still has potential to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. And these, proponent argue, are averages that are attainable for Hibbert over entire seasons. He may always have the issue of being slow-footed considering his size. His offensive moves may be substantially slower than those of, say, Dwight Howard, but I do not think this is a particularly fair criticism considering the man has improved as a player each of his first three seasons. Hibbert has given every Pacer fan a reason to believe that he has a great work ethic even if he will never erase some of his innate limitations.
And that brings us to the last reason Hibbert might prove to be a great candidate for a large contract: his character.
It’s tough being a big man in the NBA and never-will-bes like Kwame Brown and Hasheem Thabeet as well as budding stars DeMarcus Cousins and Andrew Bynum can be added to a long list of players who have proven that immaturity makes the job that much harder. Roy Hibbert is not immature. He’s committed to becoming better.
Regardless of what happens in this Eastern Conference semi-finals, Roy may sign an offer sheet somewhere for a lot of money. But if Hibbert plays to his potential and helps the Pacers beat the Heat, or push them to their limit, then you can rest assure that he will make himself a considerable amount of money.
And at that point, the Pacers will have some decisions to make. But that is the future, and we are in a pretty exciting time right now. Hopefully Hibbert can take steps towards meeting people’s expectations for him and it just might help the Pacers exceed most people’s expectations for them.
Tags: Roy Hibbert