Only a couple of player reviews left, and it’s only fitting that the second last one is that of arguably the second most important player on the Pacers last season, big man center Roy Hibbert.
At a glance of his overall stats, Hibbert had a decent third season in the NBA, where he played in 81 games (80 starts), played 27.7 minutes a night and averaging 12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2 assists per game, shooting 46.1% from the field and 74.5% from the line. Not spectacular numbers but a mild improvement on his previous years, thought you could say it was because he found a way to stay on the floor for longer. In his first two seasons, Hibbert was a foul machine and because he struggled with asthma, got winded quite often.
Before the commencement of 2010-2011, Hibbert had a well-publicized couple of months where he engaged in MMA training with rookie Paul George to improve his fitness and worked with legendary big man Bill Walton to improve his post game. And for the first few games at least, these things appeared to have paid off big time, with Hibbert playing like man possessed and leading the Pacers to a better than expected record.
In his first 11 games of the season, apart from a 9 point outing against the 76ers, Hibbert scored at least 13 points every game, and as high as 28 (against the Spurs in the season opener). Everyone was jumping on the bandwagon and Hibbert became the frontrunner for the Most Improved Player Award, an award the Pacers have been very good at getting over the years (Danny Granger, Jermaine O’Neal and Jalen Rose are all former recipients).
But just as quickly, the wheels fell off for the 7’2″ behemoth, as they did for the Pacers. Hibbert couldn’t hit a shot to save his life and grew increasingly frustrated with his own play, which only led to worse play and more frustration. This vicious cycle continued until Hibbert’s confidence bottomed out and he realized that instead of dissecting his troubles through the media, he should just shut up and play.
This revelation coincided with the firing of former head coach Jim O’Brien and the ascension of Frank Vogel, which gave Hibbert the boost of confidence and second wind he sorely needed. Hibbert bounced back strong with a string a stellar performances to end the season. Though they weren’t as impressive as what he had been doing at the start of the year, and the performances were somewhat sporadic, they were still much better than before.
Hibbert entered the playoffs with confidence and played okay — he only had one very good game, a 16 and 10 performance in game 4, which, not surprisingly, was the only game the Pacers won in the 5 game series.
The numbers don’t lie — the Pacers are so much better when Hibbert is on his game, which is why it is so important for the future of the team that Hibbert continues to grow, not only in strength and skill but also mentally, where he still struggles frequently.
Going forward, Hibbert will need to continue to work on all facets of his game. He is a solid mid-range shooter for a big man and has shown glimpses of brilliance in the post, but too often his hook shots still look wonky and dependent on luck. He’ll need to utilize his height better and add some more variety and consistency to his offensive game — 46% shooting for a man his size is simply not good enough. Defensively he needs to continue to improve his quickness and lateral movement and find ways to further reduce ticky tack fouls he still picks up from time to time. Most of all, he needs to improve his rebounding. The Pacers got eaten up on the boards far too regularly last season and the inability of the 7’2″ Hibbert to grab boards he ought to grab played a big part. There is no reason why Hibbert can’t average close to 10 boards a night.
On the whole, it was a tumultuous season for Hibbert but nevertheless a step in the right direction. He’ll never be Dwight Howard but Roy needs to be the best player he can be.