(Photo: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

The Pacers' Struggle: Indiana -- Especially Roy Hibbert -- Can't Offensive Rebound

Roy Hibbert was a monster in the playoffs last season. The single moment that showed this the most was when he met Carmelo Anthony at the rim and, like a true beanstalk giant, completely thwarted the superstar’s dunk attempt with a colossal block.

It wasn’t just the defense though. He was just a beast all over the court. Though he often abused an injured Tyson Chandler and the rest of the Knicks’ front court, he didn’t manage to put up big scoring numbers every game in that series. But he was definitely a factor down low, drawing a lot of attention and busting his ass to grab offensive boards.

In all six games against New York, Hibbert finished with at least 3 offensive boards. He finished with 6 or more three times. Indiana’s offense wasn’t always on point in that series, but Hibbert got his team extra attempts at the ri. The result, especially when the Knicks were missing shots on the other end, was a nearly palpable sense of frustration oozing from New York’s pores each time Indiana was able to reset the offense or score an easy 2 point on a putback.RH OFFREB

The Pacers were using their hulking front court to intimidate and Roy Hibbert was the biggest — both literally and figuratively — factor.

This only amplified against Miami, as Hibbert continued his gaudy rebounding while also putting up large numbers in the scoring column. He destroyed the Heat’s bigs, scoring 18 or more points in all seven games. In the first four, he was particularly dominant in other areas as well, hauling down either 6 or 7 offensive boards in each contest.

Where Has Roy Gone?

Reliving these big-time performances from Roy in the playoffs last season makes his current play hard to believe. The lack of scoring he has shown in the past few months is one thing; he has always been an inconsistent post threat and Pacers’ fans have grown accustomed to seeing him go through long droughts.

It is his inability to rebound that has been the most puzzling.

Hibbert only has three double-digit rebounding games since February 1. That date is somewhat arbitrary, but we’re talking about three times in 26 games. And of late, it’s getting worse. We aren’t talking about a bunch of 7-, 8- and 9-rebound outings that simply come up shy of the also-arbitrary double-digit plateau. No, in some games he has just been a complete non-factor on the glass.

Most glaringly: Against Memphis on Saturday, Roy recorded ZERO rebounds in 20 minutes of play. He is 7’2″. Honestly, at that height, getting zero rebounds in a game seems harder than getting 20. You think one would just ricochet into his hands by chance.

That’s just one game though. The collective is actually worse.

Including that performance, Hibbert has finished with 3 or fewer rebounds five times in during his 14 games in March. He has finished with 5 or less in TWELVE of those 14 games.

It’s really hard to believe.

Still, we can forgive Hibbert some for his lack of overall rebounds totals. His main job on this team is to protect the rim. And he does it very well. When a penetrating guard or a zealous big man tries to make a layup, he totally sells out to make that shot attempt as difficult as possible.

One of the tradeoffs is that he often lands awkwardly and out of position to recover the miss that he helped force. So we often see the Pacers wings — both who rebound well and routinely finish with double-digit boards — race over and grab the board.

This doesn’t explain all the ugly rebounding totals for Hibbert in the past month. But there is at least a reason that isn’t entirely an excuse.

It’s the other end of the court, then, where we can really question Hibbert’s ability and commitment to rebounding this year.

The Offensive Glass

Last season, the Indiana Pacers ate glass. On both ends of the court. In securing 74.6% of all rebounds available on the defensive end, they were 5th best in the NBA. On the offensive end, they were even more impressive, grabbing 30.3% of available boards, which was good for 4th best in the league.

This year, the team’s defensive rebounding work has been even better (77.0%, 2nd), but the no longer offensive rebound well, dropping all the way to 21st in the league by grabbing only 25.0% of boards.

That offensive rebounding drop off — 30.3% to 25.0% — is giant.

It may be that there has been some strategic switch away from attacking the glass. When you look at offensive rebounding numbers, they can often have more to do with strategy than talent or effort. Gregg Popovich teams, for example, always finish near the bottom of the league in this stat.

But I haven’t seen that going on with the Pacers. If it is, then you have to wonder why because it has done nothing to help the team’s transition defense, which is giving up 11.5 fast-break points (per 48 minutes) this year compared to a league-best 10.0 last season.

No, this looks to be the product of players simply not making the same effort to give their team second-chance points.

Just look at the huge drop off in offensive rebounding percent for the team this year compared to last season — a number that has plummeted to simply unacceptable levels (15.5%) during Indiana’s past three losses (in New York, Memphis, and Chicago).

Pacers ORB

I’m not a mathematician, but the number that sticks out the most on this chart is Indiana’s offensive rebounding performance this season in wins vs. losses.

In victories, they are nabbing 26.5% of offensive rebound opportunities. That’s a big dip from last season (especially the Herculean 34.1% they grabbed in wins during the playoffs last year), but it is still a respectable number. In losses, however, they get very few second-chances opportunities, as they only secure 21.4% of available offensive boards.

For a team that struggles to score in the half court, the impact is profound.

Roy Hibbert has been — by far — the biggest culprit, and the deleterious effect his lack of production is having on the team’s ability to score seems to be major.

The most glaring example is the team’s three most-recent losses.

In more than 76 minutes on the court, Hibbert has a combined 2 offensive rebounds. Two with a T. And a W and and O.

Two.

Here are his full offensive rebounding percentage figures from those games as well as his lackluster numbers this season compared to last year and his tremendous run in the 2013 playoffs.

Hibbert ORB

 

In Pacers losses this season, Hibbert has grabbed just 8.7% of available offensive boards. This is nearly half of the amount he was getting in Pacers’ wins during the playoffs last season. And it is also a huuuuuuuge dropoff from what he was getting last year in the regular season (14.9% in all games).

To be fair to the big fella, he remains Indiana’s best offensive rebounder. And David West’s offensive rebounding percent has also dipped this season. But his has dropped by a much smaller margin, and we’re also talking about a player who is getting old.

ORB other

 

Mahinmi has dipped a tiny bit as well, although both he and Luis Scola’s numbers in losses (6.9%) compared to wins (10.5%) further reflects that Indiana’s offense is dependent on offensive boards to succeed.

For what it’s worth (almost nothing since we’re talking about a different system in Houston), Scola’s numbers are bit down from last year as well. The bigger teamwide effect there, however, is that Scola isn’t even half the offensive rebounder that Tyler Hansbrough was.

Well, technically, he is about half the offensive rebounder Tyler was.

Last year, Hansbrough grabbed 13.4% of Indiana’s misses while he was on the court compared to just 6.8% by Scola.

This was a tradeoff that Indiana’s front office knew it was making when it traded for Scola. His offense was supposed to make up for the second-chance opportunities that the team would be losing. Unfortunately, Scola has been, for lack of a nicer term, bad this year.

That’s on him.

But it’s hard to point the finger at anybody more than Hibbert. As the team choose scoring off the bench in favor of offensive rebounding, you would like for him to step up and focus on an area where the team has become deficient.

Instead, he has shied away, not attacking the glass nearly as well as his did last season, let alone doing anything to make up for the deficit.

Hibbert has been talking in the press a lot lately about how the team is playing too much 1-on-1 basketball and getting away from what has made the offense more effective in the past.

Well, maybe he should re-focus his energy on grabbing some rebounds and dunking putbacks instead. Because this offense — even if it does get out of its current funk — is never going to be great. But it certainly could be a lot better — and was during the playoffs last season — when it’s tallest player was giving it second-chance opportunities.

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