Indiana Pacers: Making Roy Hibbert’s Case for Defensive Player of the Year


The Indiana Pacers have made another significant leap in their development towards being a championship contender this season. The Pacers have become one of the most consistent performers in the NBA and a great deal of their success has to be attributed to their superb defense. Arguably the best defensive team in the league, the Pacers are anchored by fourth-year center Roy Hibbert, who should be considered at this point in the season to be the leading candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Hibbert and the Pacers have amassed a 38-22 record thus far, which is good for second place in the Eastern Conference and first in the Central Division. With Coach Frank Vogel preaching defense as the team’s calling card, they have become one of the most difficult and frustrating teams to play in the league. While the Pacers benefit from having outstanding wing defenders such as Paul George and Lance Stephenson in their starting lineup, it is Hibbert that anchors the defense, altering countless shots and stopping opponents from finishing in the paint with any consistency.

The Pacers are currently second overall in opponents points scored per game with an average of just 89.6. They hold opponents to a league low .415 shooting percentage and have a considerable gap over the next best team in that category, which is the Oklahoma City Thunder at .430. Their opposition scores just 1.09 points per shot, which again is the best mark in the NBA. The team has made an obvious commitment on the defensive end and the statistics show them to be one of the best defensive teams we have seen in recent history.

Roy Hibbert is the key to Coach Frank Vogel’s defense. Photo Credit: Sacramento Press Media,

Hibbert is at the core of everything the Pacers do defensively. The 7’2” former Georgetown product has become a prolific shot blocker with 2.6 blocks per game, which is good for fourth in the league. His immense size and reach allows him to alter countless shots from the opposition and often causes smaller perimeter players to hesitate taking the ball in the paint.

Individually, his defensive rating of 96 is the second-best in the league, while his defensive win shares score of 3.7 is also in the top 10. His impact is felt throughout the team; his presence in the paint allows perimeter players to press up on their opposition or jump out into the passing lanes knowing that if they are beaten, Hibbert will be patrolling the paint waiting to help.

The Defensive Player of the Year award is always one met with some conjecture. Historically some players have been overlooked including San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan, who is one of the best defenders in league history. Ironically, Duncan has taken on a mentoring role with Hibbert and there is little doubt his influence has helped the young Pacers big man further develop his defensive abilities, which in turn may result in him winning the award at season’s end.

There are a number of contenders for this season’s award. Along with Hibbert and Duncan, the likes of former award winners Kevin Garnett and Tyson Chandler, as well as defensive anchors Joakim Noah and Larry Sanders will all get consideration. It is Hibbert, however, who is anchoring the best defense in the league and with the impressive season the Pacers have had, their players are likely to receive recognition for their performance.

Roy Hibbert contests another opposition shot attempt. Photo Credit: IsoSports,

Hibbert’s overall numbers have improved since the All-Star break and with playoff seeding becoming increasingly important, the Pacers will be relying on their big man to up his workload down the stretch. His rare mix of size, timing and defensive awareness has become the foundation of a defense that has locked down even the best teams in the league.

With the team success the Pacers have experienced and the individual defensive statistics that Hibbert has achieved this season, he should be the favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year award and should be considered a huge X-factor in the Eastern Conference playoffs.