As the Pacers slog through one of the least successful seasons in the franchise’s NBA history, we have occasionally heard the following comment from @JayNilla, friend of 8p9s.
7’2 floor spacer.
— Nilla Nillanovic (@JayNilla) January 17, 2015
Nilla is, of course, referring to the increasing number of perimeter jump shots being hoisted this season by Indiana’s 7’2″ center, Roy Hibbert.
He is clearly not the only one who has noticed.
Indy Cornrows has published two pieces that led our site to question “Why is Roy Hibbert always shooting so far away the hoop?”
The pictures tell the story.
Coming into this season, Hibbert had never taken as many as 30% of his shots from outside of 10 feet. This year, however, that rate has ballooned to almost 42%.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Roy’s attempts this year coming “at the rim” (meaning inside 3 feet) is barely half of his career split entering the year (19% vs. 35%). For a Pacer team that has espoused “Smashmouth Basketball” since coach Frank Vogel took control just over four years ago, the growth of the gold (swagger) triangle in the above chart, seemingly at the expense of the blue (collar) triangle, should be disturbing.
And it is.
But it is not entirely unplanned.
Getting Shots for Roy Hibbert
Before Saturday night’s game against the Kings, Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star brought up Roy Hibbert’s performance against the Knicks (18 points, 10 rebounds, 9-for-11 shooting). She asked Coach Vogel if he was content with Hibbert taking so many outside shots.
“We certainly want to get [Hibbert] shots in the paint,” Vogel responded. “When possible.”
In a follow up, Buckner asked how much Hibbert’s ability (or inability) to establish good, deep position drove the quality of the looks the big man gets.
“That’s a big part of it,” said Vogel. “That’s going to be his struggle his whole career. Guys are going to get into his body. He’s got great length, so smaller defenders are going to try to get into his body and push him off the spots. It’s a tough thing to get position against a smaller, quicker guy that’s intent to beat you to spots. He’s got to continue to work on that and try to establish himself.”
And work they do, but that takes time and space — neither of which is provided in abundance by the moribund Pacer offense. Indiana is continually trying to manufacture shots, and Hibbert is as good as any other candidates they have for more shots.
As you can see from the chart above, Roy’s field goal attempts (per 100 possessions) are up significantly from last season, rising to 20.0 this year after a career low 16.2 in 2013-14. That’s almost four more attempts per 100.
Year-over-year, the shift in percentage mix away from shots at the rim and towards long 2s has less to do with substitution and more to do with simply getting Roy more looks. In other words, most of the increase on long twos represent incremental shots.
“I have encouraged his perimeter jump shot more this year than in the past,” Vogel said. “There’s no question about it.”
Vogel continued, making it clear that he was looking to get his big man more opportunities to score.
“[Hibbert] is a good shooter, and the way this league plays pick-and-roll defense — they keep their bigs in the paint,” Vogel said. “It is one way to take advantage of one of his skill sets and get him a few more looks.”
This approach has seen some success.
At 45.3%, Hibbert is shooting well above league average from 3 to 10 feet of 38.6%. He is also better than the norm from 16 feet to the arc, making 44.3% compared to 39.6%.
His 32.1% shooting from the 10-16 foot range is well below the 40.2% league mark, but that may be a function of long jump hooks and turnarounds born of his inability hold deep position in the post.
Is this a sign that Frank Vogel is backing away from his “power post” roots?
No, not even remotely.
According to Synergy, the Pacers remain one of the most active post teams in the league. Indiana is third in the Association in percentage of plays out of the post, with Roy Hibbert accounting for the lion’s share of that volume. Hibbert is among the league leaders in plays out of the post at 7.2 per game — up from 5.8 last season.
The problem is that “at the rim” attempts don’t really come out of post plays.
The post tends to generate shots between 3 and 15 feet, which have increased for Roy Hibbert this year. Getting shots at the rim is really a function moving the defense and getting on the offensive glass, not pounding the ball into the post.
Under Vogel, Roy Hibbert’s ability to grab offensive boards is what has, in the past, led to many of his at the rim tries. And for two years now, he has not been a good offensive rebounder.