Roy Hibbert Leads Indiana Pacers' Defensive Surge to Fast Start

Stephen SmithContributor IIIJanuary 9, 2012

Roy Hibbert is a force in the middle
Roy Hibbert is a force in the middleAndy Lyons/Getty Images

Don't look now but the Indiana Pacers are really starting to turn some heads in this young NBA season.

Could their 6-2 start be an omen of things to come? Are they making the heavily-favored Chicago Bulls start to sweat in the Central Division?

It certainly appears that way.

The Pacers did make the playoffs last season. That's the good news. The bad news is they did so with a poor 37-45 record, finishing a whopping 25 games behind the division champion Bulls.

Things look quite different this season.

Led by 7' 2" center Roy Hibbert, the Pacers are playing stellar team defense, ranking third in the league by allowing a meager 89.3 points per game. Not only that, but head coach Frank Vogel's squad is also third in the league in defensive field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot just 41 percent from the field. That's impressive.

Hibbert, a first-round pick out of Georgetown in 2008, is starting to develop into one of the best centers in the NBA. He's currently averaging 13.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG. He averages 1.6 blocks per contest and is shooting 54 percent from the field.

Although forward Danny Granger is averaging just 14.9 PPG, way down from his career average of 18.1 per contest, he still paces the Pacers in scoring. He's too talented to hover around that mark and shoot just 31 percent from the field. He'll come around.

The pesky Pacers will not dazzle you with a lot of highlight reel players but they are a well-balanced, hard-working contingent that bring a strong effort every night. Seven players score in double figures, led by Tyler Hansbrough (12.9 PPG), Paul George and Darren Collison (11.4 PPG each).

Although the season is still young, Indiana is 3-0 at Conseco Fieldhouse for the first time since 2002 and hopes to continue owning a strong home-court advantage.

Sure, they may be a little boring. A lot of defensive teams are. But wouldn't you rather be boring and 6-2 than exciting and 3-5?  

Superior defensive play is this team's identity right now. They're going to have to continue that if they are going to seriously challenge the powerful Bulls for division honors during the shortened 2011-12 campaign.