You’d have to go back to Enron in 2001 to find a stock that collapsed as rapidly as that of Indiana Pacers All-Star center Roy Hibbert.
A year or so ago, Hibbert was being hailed as perhaps the next great big man in the NBA, a defensive tour de force who played so very well in a seven-game loss to the eventual champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals that the sky was being suggested as the limit for him.
And what a series Hibbert had against the Heat—22.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and a block per game, on 55.7 percent shooting.
That came after a regular season during which his offense regressed a bit. In 2012-13, Hibbert—an All-Star in 2012—shot just 44.8 percent and his scoring dropped from 12.8 points per game in 2012-13 to 11.9 in 2013-14.
But then came the series against the Heat and all was right with the world.
Or so we thought.
Hibbert earned All-Star status again in 2014, in part because of how well the Pacers were doing. At the break in February, the Pacers were 40-12, 2½ games ahead of the Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
As for Hibbert, he was roughly where he had been a season before: 11.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 30.6 minutes per game on 46.4 percent shooting.
Indiana had brought in another former All-Star big man, Andrew Bynum, as a free agent on Feb. 1. Bynum would only play 36 minutes in a Pacer uniform before being asked to go home and collect the rest of his paychecks.
But the numbers suggest that just the presence of Bynum did something to Hibbert and that something was not the proverbial lighting of a fire under him so much as it was throwing a couple of sticks of dynamite at his game.
Because there really is only one word to describe Hibbert’s play after Feb. 1: Awful.
From Feb. 1 through the end of the regular season, Hibbert shot a woeful 40.6 percent and averaged nine points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 28.9 minutes per game. About the only thing he seemed to be able to do at an elite level was collect personal fouls, averaging 3.3 whistles against him per contest.
Hibbert was a hot mess and the Pacers, not coincidentally, were just 21-15 after signing Bynum after going 35-10 prior to picking up the enigmatic big man.
In a shockingly grueling first-round battle to the death with the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs, Hibbert—despite there being no Al Horford around to contend with—turned in a series that can best be described as horrific.
Hibbert shot 37.2 percent and averaged 5.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 21.8 minutes per game—and that’s including the one respectable performance he had in the series, a 13-point, seven-rebound, five-block effort in Game 7.
Hibbert broke out of his shell against the Washington Wizards in the conference semifinals, scoring in double figures in four of the six games, including 28 points in a Game 2 win after going scoreless in a Game 1 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
For the series, Hibbert shot 54.9 percent and averaged 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and two blocks per game, averaging 30.2 minutes.
In an Eastern Conference rematch with the Heat, though, Hibbert wasn’t the same dominant guy he had been 12 months prior. He shot 41.5 percent and averaged 10.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 34.7 minutes a game.
Suddenly, it seemed the Pacers had a $30 million albatross hanging around their necks.
That number represents how much Hibbert could have remaining on the contract he signed in July 2012. He’s getting almost $14.9 million in 2014-15 and has a player option for another $15.5 million and change in 2015-16.
This summer has been very different from the previous one for Hibbert, who has been linked to trades for just about every available player in the league, living or dead.
This player who was considered untouchable a year ago was even linked to Denver Nuggets center and YouTube punch line JaVale McGee, who only played in five games last season before being shut down with an injured left tibia.
That is only one remarkably small step up from a team being willing to trade you for three rolls of pre-tape and an ice pack to be named later.
Pacers consultant Donnie Walsh went on SiriusXM NBA Radio late last month and one of the questions he was asked was about Hibbert and what went wrong:
“I really don’t know. … The one thing I don’t do with Roy is focus on his scoring because his value, his supreme value to us is protecting the rim, getting rebounds and doing big man things.
“He can score and if you get him the ball he will score. But there were many games he didn’t get the ball or it was hard for him to get the ball and then when he got it he didn’t do what he wanted to with the ball so I think he kind of lost confidence or something and went through a period where he wasn’t what he normally would be.
“He did the same thing the year before but then realized his value to the team wasn’t to be judged in points, and even number of rebounds in some sense. It’s just his presence on the floor and his ability to change shots that really helps our team.”
It’s good that Walsh let Hibbert off the hook for the number of boards, because his rebounding percentage plummeted in 2013-14, from 16.1 percent of available boards being snared by Hibbert in 2012-13 to just 12.5 percent in 2013-14.
Bear in mind that Hibbert is 7’2″ and 278 pounds. So it’s probably not a good thing that 78 players in the NBA (among qualifiers for the rebounding title) had a better rebounding percentage than Hibbert.
For the record, 47 players eligible for that list averaged more rebounds per game than Hibbert’s 6.6.
It just seems a fair assumption that a player as big and physical as Hibbert who plays almost 30 minutes a game would be better than the 48th-most prolific rebounder in the NBA.
In fairness, Hibbert was a force at the rim, with opponents shooting just 41.4 percent against him at that range, which was fourth-lowest in the NBA among players with at least 50 games played.
The only rim defenders more efficient than Hibbert were reserves Ryan Hollins of the Los Angeles Clippers and Bismack Biyombo of the Charlotte Hornets and starter-in-name-only Kendrick Perkins of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In 2011-12, Hibbert was an All-Star center with a player efficiency rating of 19.3 (average is 15). Two seasons later, he was an All-Star center again, but with a PER of 13.5—a 7’2″ enigma who morphed from untouchable asset to larger-than-life question mark in 12 short months.
Can Roy Hibbert get himself back on track?
That’s one of the more fascinating questions to ponder as we await the 2014-15 NBA campaign.