Roy Hibbert’s Average Year Doesn’t Guarantee Future with Indiana Pacers

Apr 15, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies beat Indiana Pacers 95-83 Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies beat Indiana Pacers 95-83 Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

The statistics look similar, but nothing seems to be the same for Roy Hibbert as he and the Indiana Pacers head into the offseason with more doubts about their future together than ever before.

Both team president Larry Bird and coach Frank Vogel had no issue with saying Hibbert’s performance was lacking this season for the Pacers. When you compare the center’s numbers from last season, things look practically the same at first glance. He is shooting and rebounding a little better, scoring about the same (just over 10 points per game), and blocking a few less shots while still being one of the NBA’s best rim defenders.

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Maybe all that would be fine if this would have been a normal season compared to last year, but with Paul George out almost the whole year, Lance Stephenson gone entirely, and David West and George Hill missing significant chunks of the season, there was a chance for Hibbert to seek redemption in the eyes of the fans and the organization. A chance to erase The Struggle from from his resume.

But that didn’t happen.

Despite having the chance to take over offensively, he only averaged a few more points (12.7 per a game) in November when he was the only starter remaining from last year. In a moment where he could have stepped up for Indiana, the perception will be that he did nothing with the opportunity. He had two 20+ point games in November, but only cracked that mark three more times for the season. It is understandable that once West and Hill returned that he acquiesced to them, but the inability to be more average by his own standards is what likely pushed Hibbert to where he’s at now.

In some ways, Larry Bird is laying unfair criticism at Hibbert. While his per-game averages are as unimpressive as they were last year, his minutes were also down this season. And aside from lower block and offensive rebounding totals, his per-36-minutes figures this year were nearly identical to those he posted in 2012-13. We’re still talking about a 7’2″ player shooting 45% from the field, but it isn’t like he fell off from reasonable expectations; he just didn’t exceed them.

Then again, his defensive presence wasn’t as intimidating either. The field-goal percentage he allowed at the rim was once again near the top of the league, but the team’s defense fell apart late in the season overall and there was a sense that the opposition was much more comfortable in the paint than they’ve been in years past. This is certainly more due to the lack of formidable perimeter defenders: Paul George missed the whole year, Lance Stephenson was gone, and George Hill effectively sat out until February. But nevertheless, Hibbert has always been the defensive anchor and so he will take the blame here even if making this defense staunch again by himself was an impossible task.

And while Fans may be ready to say good riddance, he still has his player option for next season. And it being unlikely he’d find more money somewhere else, there may be another season of Hibbert on the Pacers roster, or at least to start the year. If he does stay and Indiana does get smaller that means less minutes for Hibbert, which may not sit well with a player trying to get a new contract in Indiana or anywhere else.

Fans won’t forgive him for being average because of his above-average height, but through six seasons in the NBA, it should be apparent Hibbert isn’t going to be a reliable offensive force. He’s going to get his 10+ points, be one of the NBA’s best at defending the rim, snag a few rebounds and hustle. That won’t be good enough for people who see his contract and 7’2 frame, and conclude he has to be the best center in the NBA.

Those expectations and the reality that he just isn’t going to be a consistent All-Star-level center and Indiana’s hope to pick up the pace offensively may spell the end for Roy Hibbert’s time in Indiana.

Relevant Archer GIF

Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert /

Key 2014-15 Stats

  • 44.6% field goal percentage
  • 10.6 points per game
  • 6.8 rebounds per game
  • 1.6 blocks per a game
  • 42.6% opponent FG% at the rim

What Went Right, What Went Wrong

Rim defense has been and continues to be Hibbert’s most valuable asset. Opponents only managed to shoot 42.6% around the basket when Hibbert was there. Only seeing a one percent increase is pretty impressive considering the defense Indiana had built their playoff runs around was missing major parts all season long. It shouldn’t be underestimated how valuable this can be. The first article I wrote on 8p9s was a followup to how Hibbert was able to take away driving baskets against the Miami Heat. Hibbert takes away what can be an effective option for many players who rely on driving and picking up fouls. Hibbert continued to do that at a high level this season despite not having as much help around him defensively.

However as reliable as Hibbert’s defense is, his offense still goes through slumps and spurts on a regular basis. He had 36 games where he didn’t score in double-digits and many of those games came late in the season when Indiana was making a playoff push. Hibbert averaged just under 10 points in the season’s final month and a half.  For the most part his numbers kept around average all year long with very few peaks and valleys along the way.

How He Scores

No big changes on how Hibbert scored this year. He sticks to post ups for his points and occasionally takes advantage of making cuts but throwing the ball to Hibbert in the post is the most likely way to get him points.

Hibbert /

The above spiderweb chart shows, via, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2014-15. (created by Tim Donahue, follow @TimDonahue8p9s)

HibbertSHotChart /

His 2014-15 shot chart, via Austin Clemens.

Hibbert continued to work from the right block on many of his post-ups, but we saw him expand more towards 10 feet and beyond this season than ever before. He saw a slight decrease in his shooting percentage near the basket but he improved his distance shooting to help make up for that. Without as many offensive weapons early in the season and whenever the injury bug bit Indiana, Hibbert was forced out of his comfort zone but still managed to keep around his career scoring averages.

Hibbert’s Future in Indiana

Judging from the press conference at the end of the season, it seems his time in Indiana is limited. Bird and Vogel were very vocal in their criticism and said they didn’t know for sure if Hibbert was planning on picking up his player option for the 2015-16 season. Financially his best option is to stay with the Pacers, but that isn’t a sure thing with the recent comments from management. He may choose change and a better environment over money. He is already rich after all. And even if he does decline his opt-out (which he probably will), he could demand a trade or Indiana could choose to deal him in an effort to get smaller and faster offensively.

I’d bet he at least starts the 2015-16 season in Indiana, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.

Our Top Hibbert Stories of the Season

Next: Indiana Pacers Top 10 Plays of the 2014-2015 Season