So far this season, though, the Pacers are just 6-8 and don’t even look like a playoff team. So what happened?
The main problem, so far at least, appears to be with the main man in the middle, Roy Hibbert.
Last year, the 7-2 center out of Georgetown earned his first trip to the NBA All-Star game and was a standout player on offense and defense. Hibbert led the team in rebounding, field goal shooting and blocks, and he was second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.8 points per game.
This season, Hibbert is still doing well with rebounding and blocks, but he is struggling mightily with his shooting. And Hibbert’s shooting woes are a huge problem for the Pacers, who are currently one of the worst offensive teams in the league.
The Pacers went into Monday night averaging just 91.2 points per game. The only team worse than the Pacers on offense going into Monday night was the winless Washington Wizards, averaging a paltry 89.8 points per game.
In addition, the Pacers are shooting just 41.3% from the field, once again behind every team except the Wizards.
And one main reason for the offensive ineptitude is the play of Hibbert.
The big man has started all 14 games and is only scoring 9.6 points per game, down more than 4 points from last season.
Even worse, he is shooting just 38% from the field, the worst among the starters for the Pacers. He also is shooting a miserable 54.5% from the free throw line.
Last year, by comparison, Hibbert shot 49.7% from the field, which was the best on the team, and he shot 71% from the free throw line.
The Pacers need to be able to dump the ball into Hibbert at times on offense and count on him to score or get fouled. He also needs to be able to score off of rebounds, or at least get fouled. But right now he isn’t making many shots, even though he mostly shoots inside, and he suddenly has become a bad free throw shooter.
Players don’t just turn into bad shooters from one season to the next. It’s likely that Hibbert is either trying to do too much and is forcing his shots, or maybe he is playing with a health problem or some other problem. Maybe he has just lost his confidence.
I don’t know what the problem is, but I do know that Hibbert needs to figure out what’s wrong and get it fixed soon if the Pacers are going to turn into the contenders they want to be.
On the plus side, the Pacers are first in the league in rebounding and tied for first in the league with blocks, and Hibbert is a big reason for the success in both of these areas.
Hibbert leads the team in rebounding with 8.6 per game and leads the team in blocks with 3.1 per game. He is currently the league leader in blocks per game, and is fourth in the league in offensive rebounding.
He’s still a good player, and he is helping the Pacers in many ways. But if the Pacers want to be contenders, Hibbert needs to be a lot better, and he needs to become a much better scorer soon.