Category Archives: Indiana Pacers

Could Roy Hibbert really block more shots than an entire team?

The rest of the league has finally caught up to Roy Hibbert’s blocks. Well, for the most part.

Just two weekends ago, Hibbert had 56 blocks in 13 games, good for more than eight teams: Washington (55 blocks), Orlando (54), Minnesota (54), New York (53), Memphis (52), Brooklyn (52), Chicago (47), and Sacramento (34).

But Hibbert has been in a “slump” since then, blocking just six shots in his last five games with two of those matchups coming against teams most often rejected: Minnesota and Charlotte. Seven of the eight previously listed teams caught up or surpassed the 7’2” behemoth, leaving only Sacramento behind. The current block score between Hibbert and the Kings: 62-48 in Hibbert’s favor.

Can he keep this up for a whole season?

Not since 2009 has one player single-handedly blocked more shots than an entire team, when Dwight Howard had 231 to the New York Knicks’ 204, the lowest of any team in NBA history save for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, according to Basketball-Reference. That Knicks squad, coached by Mike D’Antoni, played a ton of small ball with David Lee in the middle and Al Harrington at the ‘4’. The same thing also happened to the Knicks of ’08, led by Isiah Thomas where they blocked less shots (213) than Marcus Camby (285) and Josh Smith (227) while going possibly too big with Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph.

This year’s Kings fit somewhere in between those two Knicks rosters. They’re neither as mobile up front as D’Antoni’s Knicks nor as large as the Knicks of 2008, but there’s a chance Sacramento is equally as dysfunctional as the two. So there’s that.

The Kings just don’t have the personnel up front to be even an average shot-blocking team. DeMarcus Cousins can swat some but he fouls 5.1 times per 36 minutes, and there’s little protection when he’s in foul trouble or needs a breather. Chuck Hayes is an immovable force but that’s for better and for worse, Derrick Williams is like Blake Griffin in the way his athleticism doesn’t translate to blocking shots (and it doesn’t help that he logs time at small forward), Jason Thompson at least looks like he could get up and swat a couple, but his foul rate so far, 6.0 per-36, hasn’t helped and Patrick Patterson, like mostly every other power forward on the Kings, is undersized and a gamble on defense (though offensively he fits in).

Some of the lack of blocks can be attributed to the Kings allowing the least amount of shots within the restricted area by a comfortable margin, according to NBA.com, but there has to be a correlation between that and leading the league in fouling. Still, despite opposing teams scoring at will once they’re near the rim (68.4 percent, last in the league), Sacramento’s allowed only 20.1 attempts from there. Second-place Washington has allowed 23.3 attempts while Indiana sits in seventh place at 24.8.

And really, the Kings are safe from breaking the ’09 Knicks record for the least amount of blocks in an 82-game season. They’re on pace for 262 which is doable when DeMarcus Cousins, as unpredictable as he can be, has at least been consistently durable throughout his career. An injury (or suspension) to him, though, and things could get interesting.

Minnesota also lurks as a possible candidate to be outblocked by Hibbert. There’s not much between a slashing guard and the rim when Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are the frontline, but guys like Dante Cunningham, Ronny Turiaf, and Gorgui Dieng are threats in their limited playing time off the bench. Cunningham’s the only player consistently in the rotation, though, while Turiaf is out with a fractured elbow and Dieng has been slow to adjust to the NBA, fouling 7.9 times per-36. The Timberwolves make up for the lack of a rim presence by forcing turnovers and not fouling. When that doesn’t work, though, it’s kind of a really big problem.

And some of this weird accomplishment of blocking more shots than an entire team is up to Hibbert, after all. Right now, his foul rate of 3.7 per 36 minutes isn’t an outlier; it’s back down to about where it was in 2012. His blocking frequency is more of a concern. Only 26 times in NBA history has a player blocked eight percent of field goal attempts while on the floor and playing over 70 games, according to Basketball-Reference, the latter necessary should Hibbert block more than Sacramento or Minnesota. That may seem like a realistic rate for an entire season but Manute Bol, Jim McIlvaine, and Shawn Bradley account for over half of those 26 occurrences. That, and only five times has a player had a block rate of eight percent while logging 30 minutes per game.

Like DeMarcus Cousins though, Hibbert has been durable throughout his career. And like in the previous paragraph, his foul rate is down which has allowed him to play a couple more minutes per game.

Besides, the statistics aren’t that much of an outlier when his work over the off-season got the attention of Grantland, among others. He also dwarfed Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Ian Mahinmi in one specific, amusing photo. All that hard work is aimed towards helping the Pacers with their journey to a championship, not some weird statistical accomplishment that doesn’t accomplish anything if it doesn’t come with all the little things a great defense like Indiana’s is made of.

Maybe the last five games are just variance anyway, balancing out the ridiculous start Hibbert had. We’re still in “SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT!” territory, after all. But if blocking more shots than an entire team comes within the confines of playing great defense, it would be one of multiple ways showing how Hibbert has become a premier force of nature.

For more odd accomplishments I hope for this season, check this out

Pacers face tough test over next few weeks

200px-Indiana_Pacers.svg

Most knew the Indiana Pacers would build off their appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but through one month they’ve blitzed their opponents for the best record in the league: 16-1. Their average margin of victory of 11.1 is best in the league thanks to their usual dominance on the defensive end — comfortably first in defensive rating and defensive EFG% – while getting improvements on offense, most notably from Paul George and Lance Stephenson.

But the Pacers have a three-week, ten-game stretch that will further prove whether they’re truly a title-contending team or raise suspicions they’ve fed off an Eastern Conference that is becoming more comedic each week. The first half of those ten games is a road trip out West, which has started well with a 105-100 victory over the Clips. They’ll play at Portland tonight, then Wednesday at Utah and end the week with a back-to-back at San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Three of those teams left on the schedule are a combined 22-1 at home. (I’m sure you can figure out who was left out.)

It won’t get much easier for the Pacers in the couple weeks following that road trip. Though the five games during that timespan feature four at home, they’ll play Miami twice (once on the road) and cap it off with Houston.

It’s all a great test for Indiana, who trail only San Antonio in SRS thanks to playing the second-softest schedule so far, according to Basketball-Reference. There will be those who think the Pacers are good but overrated because of that, which will only amplify should they falter over the next few weeks. Just like every other team though, it’s understandable for Indiana to drop a few games during a difficult stretch, especially one that features back-to-backs on the road and a couple games against the defending champs.

There’s a lot to look forward to in those games, too. Tonight’s game at Portland features the matchup at power forward between David West and LaMarcus Aldridge. There’s a five-year age difference between the two but they have nearly identical games, at least statistically. Just take a look at them when they each were 27, when West first became an all-star in 2008 and where Aldridge was last season:

aldridge west

via Basketball-Reference (click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of great matchups over the next few weeks for Paul George, whether it’s against Nicolas Batum, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Josh Smith. And teams who don’t provide interesting matchups at the ‘3’ make up for it with their presence inside. Utah features Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Detroit, on the calendar for December 16, features Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe while Houston will have Dwight Howard and Omer Asik (if the latter isn’t traded by then).

Should the Pacers get through the next three weeks mostly unscathed, they can feast on an East-heavy schedule from December 22 to January 18. Eight of the 12 games during that time are at home. Brooklyn and New York, two teams that could be better in a month, are on the schedule but for now are decimated by injuries.

Awaiting Indiana after that, however, is a second five-game road trip out West from January 20 to 28. Let’s see how they finish their first.

Paul George, 6’8″, looks like a midget next to Yao Ming

From Paul George’s Instagram:

paul george

Look how small Yao Ming’s drink looks. For all we know, that could be a pitcher of vodka he’s chugging down.

Paul George, with his outfit, looks like he’s ready to golf. Unfortunately for Yao, I’m not sure there are any golf clubs, golf carts, or golf courses big enough for him.

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