The Pacers are looking to play faster & smaller size wise next season which may complicate things when it comes to Roy Hibbert.
Indiana, coming off their difficult finish to their season in which they just fell short of making the playoffs, are now in self assessment mode. Larry Bird, the Pacers President, had an end of the season press conference in which he did not mince words when it came to Roy Hibbert and how he thought the season went for the former Georgetown Hoya (via Candace Buckner, Indianapolis Star):
“If (Hibbert) comes back we’re probably going to play another style and I can’t guarantee him anything,” Bird said. “He’s going to have to earn it.”
When asked for his assessment of Hibbert’s play, Bird said: “I didn’t think he played that well, to be honest. I thought he always played hard. He’s very durable but I don’t think he had a great year.”
“Whatever he does, he does,” Bird said. “We’ll assume he’s going to come back.”
Not exactly endearing words by Bird for his seven foot player. This is no surprise though as Hibbert had a disappointing season by all accounts. Yes not having Paul George alongside him for most of the season did hurt to some extent, yet he is far along enough in his career where his offensive production and skills should be improving and hitting their peak, not regressing which is what Hibbert has experienced this year.
You take a look at his numbers for this season in which he averaged 10.6 points per game, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game this season and they look decent for a man of his position and size. Unfortunately, expectations for him from the organization and fans were very high after another offseason in which he had the opportunity to work on his overall game and turn weaknesses into strengths.
Also, he is being paid $15 million dollars a year and being paid at that level comes with a higher level of responsibility to try and payback the team for having the belief and confidence in him to dole out a contract of that size. Hibbert though has been unable to get out from under the weight of that deal and has deferred to teammates to pick up the slack on offense while he just goes on as just another player, not one feared or striking fear into any opponents in the NBA.
He did have a solid enough season on defense, holding his own on most nights and being a rim protector for this team. The rebounding aspect too was disappointing especially at his size, not being able to get at ten rebounds per game. That should be a minimum for him to get on most nights when he is set up on the block.
The ball literally is in his and his agent’s court now as they must decide if they want to opt in for next year at $15 million. Hibbert’s agent stated that they will not make that decision until late June at the earliest.
It does not take anyone to know a thing about basketball that having $15 million on the table for next year is something you do not turn away from at all if you are thinking with common sense. It would be surprising to see Hibbert anywhere but with the Pacers at the start of next season, unless he wants to try and test out the market, see where he could possibly get a similar deal. That though is highly unlikely.
Hibbert will have another summer to improve his offensive game which will give hope to some Pacer fans but until there is substantial growth in that area seen through a whole season, it will be just a nice dream to have for fans of the blue and gold.