Tag Archives: Roy Hibbert

Lance Stephenson remains unpredictable

Mark Runyon | BasketballSchedule.net

Photo: Mark Runyon | BasketballSchedule.net

I’ve been posting little things about the Pacers lately, so I’ll try not to go overboard with them. I can’t resist talking about Lance Stephenson though.

Lance Stephenson’s progression, along with a couple other Pacers in their starting lineup, is one of the main reasons I’ve enjoyed watching Indiana this year. Their starting shooting guard has gone from rarely playing two seasons ago to a key, important cog. It’s a nice story by itself, considering how great the odds were against him carving out a solid career in the NBA when he was drafted 40th overall in 2010.

The all-around numbers are there for Stephenson: 12 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, all nice upticks from last year. He’s also had more time with the ball in his hands, 2.6 minutes compared to 1.5 last season, the latter stat according to a piece on him from Grantland. It made me draw a comparison to a higher-paid shooting guard.

Lance Stephenson is Bizarro Tyreke Evans.

But even with the improved stats, Stephenson is still as unpredictable as last season, in my couch potato opinion. Granted, I don’t watch every Pacers game just like I don’t catch every game from every team minus the Minnesota Timberwolves, but I never know what to expect from the Indiana’s starting shooting guard whenever I happen to be watching them.

Stephenson’s unpredictability still leaves two sides of him: Good Lance and Bad Lance. Both are entertaining because neither seems all that conventional. Given how badly he misses some of his shots, I assume he shoots with his eyes closed and more than a few plays he’s made have led to “noooo…YES!” moments like what I wrote about Corey Brewer recently. And ever since Stephenson brushed off his teammates multiple times in the Eastern Conference Finals to take LeBron James one-on-one, I assumed he didn’t have ice in veins but mustard instead. It’s like he was in the film 300, waving off the Spartans so he could take on the Persians himself.

That confidence might not have worked out well nearly six months ago but, like Paul George and Roy Hibbert, you could sense Stephenson was going to make a bang the following season.

And he seemed like an early candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year through the first eight games, averaging about 14 points, six rebounds, and six assists. His turnover rate was only slightly up from 2013, which was even more of a positive when his usage rate went from 15.2 to 19.5 and the total number of assists he accounted for while on the floor nearly doubled, according to Basketball-Reference. He even had a triple double against Memphis with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists while turning it over just once. Stephenson’s progression seemed very encouraging, except for the fact it raised his value six months from now.

But the shooting splits through the first eight games remained bizarre in typical Stephenson fashion: 47.9 percent from the field, 51.4 from three and…42.9 percent from the line. That doesn’t exactly add up.

And then came Bad Lance, who’s just as entertaining as Good Lance but nowhere near as efficient. In the next 10 games, Stephenson shot 10.5 percent from three on nearly two attempts per outing, creating one of most hot-cold shot charts in the process. His offensive rating went from 111 through the first eight games to 93 over the last 10, but he made 72 percent of his free throws and recorded yet another triple-double.

But the turnovers and assists went up and down, respectively, with the turnover rate in the last 10 games up to 24.3 percent and the assist rate at about 20, according to Basketball-Reference. If those rates happened all season they would put Stephenson in similar company as awkward wings like Gerald Wallace and guards like D.J. Augustin.

But that hasn’t been the case all season and at 16-2, Indiana has been fine regardless of whether Good Lance or Bad Lance shows up, the frequency of each nearly split in half.

Sooner or later, though, the Pacers will need the more efficient version on a consistent basis.

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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

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