Four Possible Roy Hibbert Trades

Dec 27, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. The Pacers defeated the Nets 110-85. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. The Pacers defeated the Nets 110-85. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Back in 2012, when Roy Hibbert signed his current four-year, $58 million contract with the Pacers, he was considered an integral part of Indiana’s future and foundational part of their identity. The big man had just turned in a seminal performance against the Miami Heat during the second round of the playoffs and was a main reason the Pacers enjoyed a fleeting, feel-good 2-1 lead in that series.

Those were the days.

Oppa Hibbert Style, forever.

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Now, three years later, Hibbert is preparing to enter the final year of that contract, and it will almost certainly be his final year with the Pacers as well, provided the team can’t find a way to ship him out of town before then.

The big fella’s epic fall from grace has been well documented and largely mirrored the fall of the team overall, from his slump that embodied the struggles of the team in the late 2013-14 season to the blank stare on his face that mirrored many of his teammates’ during last season’s dog days.

At the end-of-season press conference earlier this summer, team president Larry Bird spoke what will may be the final word on Hibbert’s tenure as a Pacers. The team president indicated that he wasn’t satisfied with Roy’s play last season and that was part of the reason Indiana would be actively looking to play smaller and faster in the future. In case there was any doubt as to what this meant for Hibbert’s value in the eyes of Larry Legend, Bird hit him with the “Well, Lance ain’t stealing his rebounds this year.”

Now that Bird has called his shot, following through will be much harder. Hibbert reportedly will opt into his contract today, so the Legend officially has the ability to conduct business involving the big man now.

There’s a reason Bird wants to start playing smaller and faster. One, the defense-first style the Pacers had relied on during their recent run kind of came about because of personnel; Bird’s older Pacers squads, as well as his Boston teams, had strong offensive fluidity, something that does not describe Roy Hibbert, because two, Hibbert just isn’t that great on that end of the floor, especially in the context of the third point.

Three, offensive versatility is  the identity of the “new NBA”: space and pace, speed over size. As Zach Lowe mentioned in his recent Grantland column about the future of the Pacers and the Blazers, Andrew Bogut of the Golden State Warriors might be Hibbert’s closest analog as a player, and the style of play during the NBA Finals forced him to spend most of it on the bench. That type of dinosaur talk doesn’t bode well for his trade value.

Even worse, there are multiple reasons for demand to be low. There’s the league’s strategic shift away from immobile, non-shooting big men like Hibbert. And his massive $15.5 million salary for next season. And the fact that everyone knows the Pacers want to trade him, to his historically temperamental play. Indiana has to find a team hurting for the one reason to keep him around: rim protection.

“Secret-sauce” numbers cited by Lowe said that there was some slippage behind the still-admirable 42.6% that Hibbert allowed on field goals at the rim from last season, per The big guy might still struggle against extremely small lineups, but as Lowe said, he has some value as a big-bodied rim protector over the course of the 82-plus-games rigors of an NBA championship chase.

That skill alone might still make him tradeable.

The question now will be who wants that skill, but there could be suitors, especially after this offseason’s musical chairs of rim-protecting centers like Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, and Robin Lopez, among others, shakes out.

Let’s dig into the trade machine to see if we can find some possibilities for a new home for Hibbert in 2016.

Portland Trail Blazers: Draft pick for Roy Hibbert; or Gerald Henderson and Chris Kaman for Roy Hibbert

Portland might be the most likely destination for Roy Hibbert. Their own rim protector, Robin Lopez, is an unrestricted free agent, and GM Neil Oshey was the guy who signed Hibbert to the 4-year offer sheet in 2012 that eventually became the template for his current deal with Indiana when Bird matched.

Between the emergence of Meyers Leonard as well as the Blazers’ recent acquisition of Mason Plumlee, it seems like they could be moving on from Lopez. But Jason Quick of the Oregonian said recently on 1080 The Fan in Portland that he believe the franchise still values a true rim-protector and thus could conceivably make a run at Hibbert this offseason, given that they would the cap space to simply absorb his salary should they lose any combination of the three of Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, or Wesley Matthews.

That means the Blazers could offer up something as small as a second-round pick to the Pacers for Hibbert. Whether or not that’s something Larry would be interested in remains to be seen. He might be interested in having the cap space in Indiana this offseason, prior to the year 2016, when every team has cap space. Perhaps this summer, he could actually leverage that space to bring a free agent to Indiana, historically one of the lesser-desired destinations for free agents.

Even if they somehow manage to retain some of their free agents and wind up over the cap, the Blazers could offer up something like the newly acquired Gerald Henderson and Chris Kaman to match Hibbert’s salary. Even something like that would benefit Indiana, since Kaman’s salary is unguaranteed and could be waived if the team desired prior to the season, while Henderson is a wing who defends well with just one year remaining on his contract.

Given their past interest in Roy and the potential cap space, Portland is the most interesting possibility for Hibbert.

Milwaukee Bucks: O.J. Mayo and Zaza Pachulia for Roy Hibbert

The Bucks are looking for a true rim-protecting big man to team with John Henson, and if they strike out on the free-agent market, Roy Hibbert could be just the guy they’re looking for.

With their trade for Greivis Vasquez from Toronto on draft night, O.J. Mayo becomes an expendable member of the backcourt, and Pachulia would be the obvious outbound choice in any trade for a big man. Bird has tried to trade for the non-overweight version of Mayo before, and the Pacers are looking for a combo guard, so who knows, maybe he could actually give Indiana a boost on the wing. And since it would save the team $1.5 million, paying Pachulia wouldn’t be a total nightmare, if they even decided to keep him.

Given that they’re adversaries in the same division, this deal seems less likely, but it works perfectly from a salary team need perspective.

Brooklyn Nets: Joe Johnson for Roy Hibbert and CJ Miles

Brooklyn’s own Brook Lopez is a free agent this offseason, and he’s expected to re-sign with the Nets. If that happens, that significantly decreases the chances of a trade like this going down.

If something goes wrong with that re-signing, however, and the Nets find themselves in the market for a center, a deal like this would be interesting to Brooklyn, which has been trying to shed Joe Johnson’s contract for some time.

Johnson would actually be a great help for the Pacers, who haven’t had anyone who can create their own shot like that in a long time, and even when playing a supporting role at his age to a younger Paul George, Johnson has always been a strong spot-up shooter as well.

It would take including Miles to get this done, which isn’t an earth-shattering condition, but it would be a nagging one, since he’s a productive shooter whose $4 million salary will look like a great deal for its final two years once the cap leaps in 2016. Even though Johnson could replace him, his massive contract ends after next year and will be due a salary under the new TV revenue deal. Plus, it would require taking on more payroll next year thanks to Johnson’s $23 million salary, which isn’t the Pacers’ MO.

Boston Celtics: Gerald Wallace and Marcus Smart for Roy Hibbert and Solomon Hill

Now we’re into the deals that actually look intriguing, so you know they’re probably too good to be true. Not only does Hibbert seem less-than-ideal for Boston coach Brad Stevens’ modern spaced-out offensive system, but the Pacers would actually be snagging a semi-promising young player in Marcus Smart, although he had been interested to be on the block this offseason.

Still, Boston has been trying to win games and make an impact for about the last half-season now, and they were stymied when trying to move up in the draft to grab Justise Winslow last week. Depending on how successful their free-agent haul might be, getting one season of an elite rim protector like Hibbert could help them do some increased damage in next year’s Eastern Conference without tying up their future cap flexibility.

A trade like this would also be a way to actually make use of Wallace’s dead-weight deal rather than having it rot for another season, and if Boston is serious about using Smart as a trade chip, there may be no better time to grab him than after they selected a similar guard, Terry Rozier, in the first round last week. If they really want another “prospect” in return, throw ‘em Solomon Hill.

This would be an ideal trade scenario for the Pacers with Hibbert: something where they can unload his salary for equal or better cap relief, maybe take back a semi-productive veteran, and potentially — hopefully! — snag a buy-low prospect in the process.

Next: Why Roy Hibbert Opting In Might Be a Good Thing

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