Since being selected with the 17th overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert has accomplished something that many big men in the league and many men his size can’t pull off. Even though the big man sports a behemoth 7’2”, 290-pound frame, Hibbert has managed to stay healthy over the five seasons that he’s been in the league.
Discounting the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, where Hibbert still played 65 of 66 games, the fewest games that Hibbert has appeared in over a season is 70, which happened in his rookie year. After that, his second fewest happened this past season when he appeared in 79 games for Indiana.
One of the reasons that the Pacers have been able to keep Hibbert healthy over the years is that they have been economical with his minutes-load since he entered the NBA. Hibbert has never averaged more than 30 minutes per game in any of his five seasons in the league. Part of that is due to the foul trouble he sometimes finds himself in as a rim-protector, but part of it is also by the Pacers’ design as they want to keep their big man healthy.
Coming down the home-stretch of the preseason, the Pacers once again showed how they like to handle Hibbert’s workload to keep him fresh for the regular season. On Saturday night as they faced off with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hibbert played only 17 minutes, finishing the game with just six points, three rebounds, one steal and one block. The four fouls he accrued probably contributed to the time he saw the floor, but some of it was certainly to make sure that he’s 100 percent in just over a week when the regular season gets underway.
As we’ve seen with guys like Andrew Bynum, Greg Oden and, to a lesser degree, Andrew Bogut, injuries can have devastating effects on big men in the NBA, particularly one’s to their lower-body. Hibbert and the Pacers are, in part, fortunate that he’s never experienced something serious, but should also be celebrated for how they’ve managed him. Obviously the basketball fan in me wants to see a big, savvy defender in the game in much as possible on a game-to-game basis, but having him around long-term by saving him may actually be the wiser and better alternative.