May 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts after game five against the Miami Heat of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 93-90. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Can Roy Hibbert return to form this season?

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The last few years, Roy Hibbert has been known as one of the premier centers in the NBA. The 7-foot-2 big man has popularized the “verticality” rule, where if a player stands with their hands straight up without jumping they can’t be called for a foul as the offensive player initiates contact. This was especially effective for Hibbert as his long athletic frame enabled him to alter how opponents attacked the rim, changing most shots that came his way, even blocking a good amount of them.

Hibbert was the cornerstone of the Pacers’ elite defense and was able to somewhat contribute on offense. As only a sixth-year player, he is not quite yet in his prime and his post game isn’t polished. However, he was able to consistently score over undersized centers.

But then the 2013-14 season happened.

Mar 15, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) is defended by Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) in the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 15, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) is defended by Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) in the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Hibbert’s scoring decreased, despite already being low for a starter of his caliber. His rebounding went from decent to mediocre — especially for his size — and it became incredibly easy for opponents to get in his head and take him out of the game.

The 27-year-old played in 81 of the 82 regular season contests averaging 29.7 minutes per game and yet only averaged 10.8 points per game. He also played in all 19 Pacers playoff games only averaging 9.3 points in 28.5 minutes per game. There were 16 games during the regular season and six more in the postseason where Hibbert scored less than five points! That’s unacceptable for such a physically imposing player who plays starters minutes.

The most he scored was 27 points early in the regular season, with a 28-point outburst in the playoffs against the Wizards. What’s worse, he scored zero points in six games over the course of the regular season and playoffs. Even more, he played a lot of minutes in those games. He had games of 28, 27, 22, 18, 12 (twice in consecutive games) and nine minutes without scoring a single point.

Hibbert also fouled a lot last year. He fouled out four times, ended with five fouls 12 times, and was in foul trouble with four a total of 28 times in both the regular season and playoffs. So Hibbert was in serious foul trouble 44 of the 100 games he played in last season. Not good.

He was tied for seventh with Blake Griffin in fouls per game at 3.3 and fourth overall in fouls with 269 (a mere four fouls behind Andre Drummond, who led the league).

What’s worse is Hibbert’s field goal percentage plummeted to unacceptable depths. Big guys are supposed to score at a high clip near the rim. Hibbert’s overall field goal percentage has gone from 49.7 percent in 2011-12 to 44.8 percent in 2012-13 to 43.9 percent last season. That’s horrible! That’s nearly a mediocre guard’s percentage who chucks up shots, and Hibbert practically never shoots threes!

Let’s take a deeper look at Hibbert with his shooting.

Two years ago, Hibbert shot below league average at the rim, but shot above average several feet away from the hoop, while still being near the paint. How is that? Because that is the area where Hibbert can get his hook shot off with his long wingspan, but also be away from congestion in the lane.

Last season however, things changed for the worse. Hibbert still converted on attempts at the rim at a below average rate, but practically all but lost his hook shot. The only place he scored efficiently was near the rim where one can imagine Hibbert was weak side and guard dropped it off to him when the defense committed. A gimme.

Things did not go well for Hibbert last season, but fortunately things can turn around.

With the departure of Lance Stevenson to Charlotte and the unfortunate injury to superstar Paul George, the expectations for Indiana are considerably less than recently. More of the offense will probably be run through Hibbert who is easily the best player that will be active on opening night for the Pacers.

Hibbert has to do three things to get back on track.

  1. Have a thick skin at all times. This will help him focus and help him not get in foul trouble as often.
  2. Be patient on offense not forcing things, but commit, don’t hesitate.
  3. Play aggressively, never back down.

If he follows my advice he’ll soon be a dominant player again.

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