Trading Roy Hibbert Would Be Damaging Overreaction for Indiana Pacers

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Trading Roy Hibbert Would Be Damaging Overreaction for Indiana Pacers
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Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert had a lousy postseason. Historically lousy, even. Hibbert had multiple games where he registered no points or rebounds, and he disappeared to the point where Pacers coach Frank Vogel simply had to look at other options.

It was the worst Hibbert had played at the worst possible time, but that doesn't mean the Pacers should overreact and sell low on one of the league's best defensive big men.

Here's Sean Deveney of the Sporting News with the latest buzz around a potential Hibbert trade:

'They’re open to making major changes, if they’re there,' one general manager told Sporting News. '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.'

One source noted the obvious, which is that star small forward Paul George is untouchable in any deal with the Pacers, and added that power forward David West was all but off the table, too. He added that Indiana’s preference would be to send Hibbert to the Western Conference.

There's a difference between quietly shopping and actively looking to move someone, and it sounds as though Indiana is feeling out the waters. Even that, though, probably isn't the smartest thing to do. Hibbert's collapse was felt because of the timing, and his current trade value can't possibly be proportionate to what he can typically bring.

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Recency bias affects us all, and the last images we have of Hibbert are of him sulking around the court and fading away from the moment. Hibbert averaged just 9.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 28.5 minutes a game this postseason.  

Here's Satchel Price at SBNation.com with more:

It's been a long time since we saw a player as talented as Hibbert go through what he did the past year. Coming off a spectacular 2013 postseason that signaled his emergence as one of the game's elite big men, he entered last season with expectations of leading Indiana to the promised land.

Instead, Hibbert wasn't even on the court for most of the Pacers' 2014 playoff run, and for good reason. He was a mess on the court, mentally as much as physically, and often appeared to be wishing he was pretty much anywhere else but the spotlight. It showed in his on-court production, which ranged from mediocre to abysmal.

The fear, of course, is that Hibbert is mentally damaged to the point of no return and that he'll never regain his confidence. Baseball players sometimes lose the ability to throw the ball to first base out of nowhere. It's all in their heads, but it ruins their careers all the same. Can the same thing happen to a basketball player?

It's possible, but it would be awfully surprising if that was the case with Hibbert. Even if his scoring never recovers, Hibbert should be able to have an impact defensively, altering shots and using his pure size to be a force around the rim.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

And not that it's an excuse, but the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat presented some difficult matchups for Hibbert to handle. He was certainly drawn out of his comfort zone by sweet-shooting big men, and maybe that's where the insecurity started to seep in.

That doesn't have to be a permanent state of mind, though, and Hibbert needs the help of his coaching staff and teammates to get him back at an elite level. There are very few players capable of protecting the rim quite like Hibbert, and there's a reason why Indiana has had an elite defense the last few years with him in the middle.

Hibbert is a critical part to what makes the Pacers tick. While searching for offers rarely hurts anyone, committing to Hibbert might be the better play both for Hibbert's confidence and Indiana's future outlook. 

We're talking about a 7'2" center hitting his physical prime here, after all. Indiana lacks a competent replacement for him, as we saw in the playoffs, and it's hard to imagine it would be able to acquire a center who would fit its style of play and provides the same level of production Hibbert does.

Here's Matt Moore at CBSSports.com:

Hibbert had a strong first half of the season, earning an All-Star appearance but went into a significant funk that fostered rumors of everything from personal issues to injury. The Pacers did manage to make it to the Eastern Conference finals, but were eliminated fairly easily by the Miami Heat.

Moving Hibbert's contract may sound perilous, but the reality is that shot blocking and rim protection is at a premium in this league and Hibbert still stands as arguably the league's best at that. Would you rather have Hibbert at $14.8 million or JaVale McGee at $11 million? Those are the kinds of options you're looking at.

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While it's understandable that Indiana might not want to trot into next year with the exact same team facing the exact same problems that led to its untimely demise, moving Hibbert when his trade value is at its lowest point and expecting to come out better for it is wishful thinking.

It's important to look at the big picture as well, even if future predictions for Hibbert require a leap of faith. We've seen "good Roy" much more than "bad Roy" over the last few years, so it's not a question of whether he's capable or not. He most certainly is. Hibbert and the Pacers have some issues to resolve, but trading him right now feels like a desperate overreaction more than a carefully planned decision. 

Contingency plans should be established, and the Pacers should prepare for the possibility that Hibbert is never the same. That's far different from giving up on him prematurely and not allowing him the chance to bounce back, though. Indiana at least owes Hibbert one more chance before moving on. 

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