Meet Roy Hibbert, a guy us old folgies would refer to as a “legitimate” center in an era filled with PFs lining up at the 5, or characters like Andrea Bargnani masquerading as men in the middle. Hibbert, after spending the lockout-extended off-season hanging out with Tom Haverford, Jean Ralphio and Detlef Shrempf at Entertainment 720 in Pawnee, IN, put together his finest season in the pros to date, making his case as a borderline “Top 10” center in the league.
For those who appreciate traditional statistics, he finished with career highs in points (12.8), rebounds (8.8), blocks (2.0) and field goal percentage (.497%). For the statistically advanced, Hibbert attained career highs in PER (19.3), total rebound percentage (16.6%) and win shares (6.2). What does all this mean? Well, I’d wager that at age 25, a legit 7-footer who’s shown steady improvement over the past two seasons, stands to be hitting his peak in this league any year now. And what do you know? He’s a restricted free agent. How convenient.
Offensively, Hibbert is your quintessential back-to-the-basket/under-the-basket scorer, attempting the bulk of his field goal attempts either at the rim (3.8 per game) or between three and nine-feet away (4.3 per game). Yet the results of these splits are a bit paradoxical. You’d like to see Hibbert perform better at the rim, only converting on 56.8 percent on this high-percentage shot type, which for centers averaging more than 20 minutes game, would put him near the bottom in the league from that spot on the floor, according to Hoopdata.com (Comparatively, Andrew Bogut converted 80 percent of his attempts at the rim and Tyson Chandler, 75. 8 percent). Yet Hibbert’s 51.1 percent field goal percentage from between 3-9 feet would place him in the upper quarter of players at his position. At 7’ 2”, 280 pounds, you would think Hibbert could utilize the same size and strength that augments his game in the paint, to enhance his play at the rim. Instead, there’s significant room for improvement there.
Defensively, you got to love a 7-footer who can hold his own. Opposing Cs put up a PER of 14.4 when Hibbert was on the floor. When you consider Hibbert’s own PER, that means the Pacers were +5 in rating points at that position every time Hibbert was on the court. That’s a really good differential. To put that in perspective, in 2010-11, Brook Lopez, known more for his offensive game, had a PER differential of +2.5. Defense matters.
One of the only red flags I can see regarding Hibbert’s maturation as a player last year is tied-in to who’s surrounding him. The Pacers notably brought in David West as their PF last year, a capable mid-range shooter. Looking at the Pacers top five-man floor units from this past season, the team was at its best when pairing Hibbert at the 5 and West at the 4. While Tyler Hansbrough made the Pacers better on defense, the team was stagnant on offense and I’m sure that had a lot to do with team’s being able to defensively key-in on Hibbert down low and double-team, rather than having to know where a player like West may be lurking from 15-feet out.