Roy Hibbert made the All-Star team a season ago, one in which he averaged career highs of 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while anchoring the defense for a Pacers team that pushed the eventual champion Heat to six games in the second round of the playoffs.
That performance convinced Indiana to match a max contract offer that the Blazers presented to Hibbert in restricted free agency. So far this season, however, Hibbert has regressed statistically, and isn’t coming close to living up to that contract.
Still, the confidence remains. Hibbert believes that despite his struggles, he will eventually become the league’s best center.
“People said I wouldn’t be in the NBA,” said Hibbert, the highest-paid Pacer at $13.8 million this season. “People said I wouldn’t be a starting center, this, that and the other. I just prove people wrong. I’m having a slump right now, but in the grand scheme of things I’m going to turn it around and hopefully be the best when it’s all said and done.”
Hibbert aims to top Dwight Howard as the widely accepted best center in the NBA. A fake Hibbert Instagram account took a shot at Howard recently and gained some traction on the Internet before it was debunked – “I’m the best center in the league #[expletive]Dwight” it read.
“That wasn’t me, but I will be the best center in the league one day,” Hibbert said.
There’s the power of positive thinking and all that, which is good to see in someone like Hibbert that has shown he has the tools to be successful. But there’s also being realistic.
Even in his All-Star season, Hibbert only scored 20 points or better in six out of 65 games. He’s limited offensively, and to be the best in the league at any position, you have to have an offensive game that’s substantially more than serviceable.
That’s the area where Hibbert has backtracked the most so far in the early stages of the season, with his average dipping three points per game from last year, to a level of just single digits.
There’s much more than scoring to playing the game, obviously, and Hibbert is still above average defensively. He’s improved his shot-blocking to be third in the league in that category at over three per game — ahead of Howard, who sits at fourth.
Hibbert doesn’t appear to have the potential to dominate on both ends of the floor for stretches, to the point where teams would construct entire game plans around his presence. As he said, he’s used to proving people wrong, which is what he’ll have to do in a big way to convince any of us he can be the best in the league at his position.