As a result of their hot start, the Pacers have been in the media every day since the start of the season. They currently sit at 9-1, and it’s no secret that their success has been as a result of their continued defensive prowess this season. Defense has been a focus of head coach Frank Vogel’s for a number of years, and it will be the secret to success for the Pacers this season. The Pacers are currently first in the NBA in points allowed per game and defensive efficiency. The anchor of any and every NBA defense is the center. This is particularly the case when you have a 7′ 2″ centre with a 7’4″ wingspan like the Pacers do in Roy Hibbert.
With the recent progression of statistics in the NBA it is becoming easier and easier to quantify the impact that centers have, and exactly how efficient opposing offenses are. The most basic statistic to show Hibbert’s dominance on the defensive end is the fact that he currently leads the NBA in blocks with 4.6 while playing just under 30 minutes per game. This is a full block above Anthony Davis, who is currently second. This is absurdly high and may regress a little over the season, but still helps to highlight why Hibbert is such an integral cog to the Pacers’ overall success and why he will be a key in determining their seeding come playoff time.
One statistic which has recently helped to highlight the dominance of big men on defense is opposing field goal percentage at the rim. Hibbert is currently allowing just 35% when the opponent has a field goal attempt near the rim. Hibbert is forcing teams to change their whole strategy to combat this statistic. They have two options; either attempt more outside shots or use ball movement to get Hibbert out of position. Coaches are extremely wary of giving players the greenlight for more three point attempts which often leads them to focus on ball movement. Unfortunately for those teams, Hibbert is virtually always in position and accounts for this extra ball movement exceedingly well. Hibbert’s defensive positioning and footwork are what sets him apart from other NBA centers such as Demarcus Cousins and his 56.8% opposing field goal percentage at rim.
It can be said however that teams will improve on ball movement, and Hibbert will be tested more and more as opposing teams become better offensively as the season goes on. This will particularly be the case with the teams like the Heat and the Thunder and may be the determining factor in the race to the championship come playoff time. I believe that Hibbert will be able to evolve with the adjustments that teams make. Either way, the Pacers’ current defensive statistics are beyond impressive and Hibbert’s personal defensive statistics show that they wouldn’t be in the position they are in with 9 wins already, if it weren’t for his dominance down that end of the floor. If Hibbert continues forcing teams to account for him on every possession he’s on the court, the Pacers have a great chance at being a 1 or 2 seed in the East and making a deep playoff run.
Do you think Hibbert will be able to maintain this defensive dominance as the season goes on?