Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert was wildly inconsistent in the 2014 NBA playoffs after spurts of dominance in the regular season that garnered him a second All-Star selection. Now Hibbert's future with the Pacers is in question, as Indiana has reportedly been exploring options to trade him.
Sean Deveney of Sporting News reported Sunday that the Pacers have "quietly" sought to ship Hibbert out of town, citing multiple sources. The following testimony is from an NBA general manager:
They’re open to making major changes, if they’re there...I think they’d be disappointed to see that same core group back intact, so it is a matter of, how drastic can the changes they make be? Moving Hibbert for multiple pieces would be a pretty drastic change, but they’re asking.
Given how unsteady Hibbert was in the playoffs, it will be interesting to see whether he can salvage solace with the Pacers.
Deveney's report indicates that a potential Hibbert trade to the Portland Trail Blazers is "unlikely," since Portland is focused on retaining frontcourt stalwart LaMarcus Aldridge long term. One source indicated that the Pacers prefer to send Hibbert to the Western Conference.
Even before Hibbert's befuddling performance in the playoffs, he publicly criticized his teammates for a lackluster conclusion to the 2013-14 regular season. Hibbert backtracked and attempted to reconcile in April, per ESPN.com:
You know, I think that I should've kept my frustrations to myself or just in the locker room. I will admit that it wasn't the best thing to do. I'll learn from that, and I was wrong. There are better ways to handle that than going to the media. All in all, I learned. I talked to my teammates; they talked to me. I'm willing to accept the criticism. It wasn't the best thing to do.
But that didn't yield far better results thereafter. Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy outlined an element of Hibbert's poor showings on the big stage:
Chemistry was an issue as the Pacers tried to fight through the distractions and band together. They showed resilience, yet it still wasn't enough to knock off the Miami Heat. There are a ton of extenuating circumstances that will factor into whether Hibbert is moved. Indiana has come close but not quite managed to get past the Heat in the past three postseasons.
However, Miami's three biggest stars, headlined by LeBron James, are all testing the open market after opting out of their contracts with the team. What the Heat's roster looks like moving forward could have a major impact on the roster decisions of Indiana president Larry Bird and Co.
The Pacers will have to figure out how far they can get with the nucleus of Hibbert, David West, Paul George and current free agent Lance Stephenson, who may end up elsewhere due to a reported snag in contract negotiations.
Hibbert is just 27 years old, has nice touch for his massive size and is an effective rim protector. Players like him don't come along often, so Indiana has to carefully manage this situation in the event that it doesn't trade him. With two years and over $30 million left on Hibbert's current contract and a rather poor stretch of recent play, moving him may prove easier said than done.
Given how weak the Eastern Conference is, the Pacers have room to experiment with the roster, but they may not get as much in return for Hibbert after the most recent playoffs. As long as George plays to his potential and West serves as the emotional heart of the team, the Pacers have a chance to emerge from the East in 2014-15.