Every single team in the NBA has a player who believes he doesn’t get enough shots because his teammates hog the ball. You usually don’t hear about it, because those players know complaining publicly will harm the team. Only when is the grievance is so strong do players speak up.
But not getting shots isn’t the only way those players reach that level of unhappiness. Winning cures all ills, and when teams lose, players are less likely to suppress their complaints.
Take the Pacers, who’ve lost four of five and nine of 15.
Roy Hibbert, via David Aldridge of NBA.com:
“Some selfish dudes in here,” Roy Hibbert muttered Friday night, after getting eight shots in the Pacers’ loss to the Wizards. “Some selfish dudes. I’m tired of talking about it. We’ve been talking about it for a month.”
“We play hard, but we’ve got to move the ball,” Hibbert said. “Is it obvious, or what? I don’t know whatever our assist ratio, or whatever it is, is in the league, but it probably isn’t up there. I’m really trying hard not to spaz out right now, but I don’t know. We’ve been talking about it for a month. I’m not handling the rock. I don’t know. I’ve made suggestions before and we do it for, like, one game, and then we revert back to what we are. I don’t know. I’m not the one to answer that question. It directly affects me and the bigs. We’re just out there and it makes us look bad.”
Whom is Hibbert talking about?
Let’s narrow the suspects to Indiana’s other four starters – George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George and David West. Hibbert has played 61 percent of his minutes with all four at once and at least 79 percent with each individually.
I think we can eliminate West, a power forward. After all, Hibbert said the selfishness adversely affects the bigs.
For a baseline, here’s how each team’s starting point guards, shooting guards and small forwards rank in assists per shot:
This measure seems to excuse Stephenson, who ranks fourth among starting shooting guards in assists per shot.
What about Paul George? He leads the Pacers in shots by a wide margin, but he’s assisted Hibbert more this season than anyone else this season. Hibbert also recently gave George permission to freelance. Hibbert, via Candace Bucker of IndyStar (hat tip: Jared Wade of 8 Points, 9 Seconds):
“We’ve fallen in love with the jump shot for a while,” Hibbert said. “People feel like they have it going and they want to do it themselves sometimes. That’s just how it works. I feel like two guys that I have 100 percent trust in doing that is Paul and David. I feel like they should have carte blanche on whatever they want to do in terms of attacking the paint and (put) the ball’s in their hands because they’ve earned my respect.”
That leaves George Hill, who ranks lower than Stephenson and George among starters at his position in assists per shot. Hibbert has not, to my knowledge, publically endorsed Hill not passing, either. Also Hill has assisted Hibbert just 30 times this season – few than George (45), Stephenson (43) and even West (42) have. But Hill has also taken the fewer shots than any other Indiana starter.
In the Pacers’ offense, Hill takes a smaller role than a typical point guard. He doesn’t dominate the ball, so his ability to hijack the offense is limited.
And that’s the rub. Roles vary across the league, and it’s difficult to say from the outside who is supposed to pass to Hibbert more – or at least whom he thinks should.
Hibbert knows, and Frank Vogel knows. And the purportedly selfish player(s) probably know.
As much as it’s important the solve the issue, it’s more important they reach a place where Hibbert isn’t so unhappy that he’s complaining publicly.
It’s probably a chicken-or-the-egg argument whether better offensive balance would make the Pacers win or vice versa. Either way, they need one or the other to happen soon before this in-fighting worsens.