Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel will go to great lengths to boost his team's ego.
That includes lying.
Defensive Player of the Year? Hibbert? Hands down?
Few NBA players can protect the rim and defend as well as Hibbert, but there are enough to make an actual race out of the Defensive Player of the Year award—especially given how Hibbert and the Pacers have been playing of late.
The Pacers have lost seven of their last 12 games and are clinging to a two-game lead for the Eastern Conference's top spot. During this stretch, their defense has suffered tremendously.
Hibbert's defense has suffered tremendously.
|Hibbert's Declining Defense|
|When||STLS||BLKS||Def. Rtg.||Pacers Def. Rtg. With||Pacers Def. Rtg. Without|
|Last 12 Games||.3||1.8||101.2||101.2||101.1|
Twelve games of average-to-below-average defense isn't enough to discredit Hibbert's performance for most of this season. It's too small of a sample size.
But it is enough to realize he has competition.
Ask Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale who should be named Defensive Player of the Year, and he won't say Hibbert.
Nor will he say Dwight Howard.
It's Joakim Noah he has his eye on.
"He's played very well," McHale said of Noah earlier this month, per ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers. "He should be defensive player of the year."
Noah isn't "hands down" the best defender this year, but he's right there, joining Hibbert and Paul George as the only three players to notch defensive ratings under 98 while also averaging 30-plus minutes per game. The fact that he plays nearly five minutes more than Hibbert every night should be taken into account too.
Even the most optimistic person cannot legitimately conclude Hibbert will run away with the highest of defensive honors, because he won't. Other players will be taken into consideration—George, Howard, possibly LeBron James, etc.—and even if this becomes a two-man clash, barreling through Noah won't be easy.
Or even possible.