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How Team Success Intertwines With Roy Hibbert’s DPOY Tweet

There’s a common misconception in sports that individual accomplishment usually falls outside the purview of team triumph. For baseball less so, but for basketball, hockey and certainly football, team success is held up as sacrosanct above singular accolades. That’s why Pacers center Roy Hibbert has gotten a little flack for his tweets following Indiana’s 97-80 dismantling of Central Division rival Chicago last night.

The Indiana Pacers are the last unbeaten team in the NBA after last night’s victory against the Bulls. They stand at 5-0 and some are whispering about Paul George for MVP. But what about Roy Hibbert as this year’s Defensive Player of the Year? It’s well-known Hibbert goal after last night’s postgame tweet.

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He quickly followed up the solipsistic mention of individual accomplishment with the caveat that winning the league’s annual DPOY award would actually help — not hinder — his team’s goal of a title:

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Unless you’re like many, and find Indiana’s suffocating defense paralyzing to your serotonin drip during League Pass nights, Hibbert is pretty spot-on. His interior defense, particularly protecting the rim, is the biggest reason the Pacers have inherited the moniker: biggest Heat rival (sorry Chi-town fans).

The Pacers are giving up only 86.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s absurd. Only 11 teams have held opponents sub-100 on average this season, and the Pacers are the only team under 90. In fact, only the surprising stalwart Warriors, even approach the 90-point line. Last year’s Pacers team was first in the league in defensive efficiency as well, giving up 96.6 points per 100 possessions. Only four teams last year held opponents under 100. Not even Tom Thibodeau‘s strong-side D kept teams under 100 points per 100 possessions last year, so a sub-90 mark is gargantuan.

So Indiana’s defensive acumen — at least at its present, almost historic levels — isn’t likely to continue through the rest of the season. But they’re going to be in the top spot or near it all year, and that’s largely the result of Hibbert’s presence in the paint.

Hibbert’s defense becomes even more important when you look at both his on/off numbers and the new SportVU tracking technology, which measures defensive impact. The “Sheriff of the Restricted Area,” as Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry described him this morning, leads the league in blocks, averaging 5.2 per game, despite averaging few than 30 minutes a night so far this season.

Not only that, but Hibbert’s kept opponents under 30 percent shooting at the rim in over 11 attempts per game, which is far higher than anyone else at his position. For example, the player in the NBA with the second most blocks, NOR’s Anthony Davis, defends against 5.2 field goal attempts at the rim per night, according to SportVU. Hibbert defends more than double that, at 11.4. That’s astonishing.

Just wait until we get into Hibbert’s on/off numbers. Trust us, when you see the discrepancy, even with the tiny sample size, you’ll start to think DPOY was almost an understatement.

Click page 2 for more on Hibbert’s defensive prowess…

Remember the Pacers are giving up under 90 points per 100 possessions this season, and how that’s truly astounding — even through just 5 games. Well, with Hibbert off the court, the Pacers give up 102 points per 100 possessions. That would tie Indiana with Dwight Howard‘s Houston Rockets for 17th in the league in defensive efficiency. Except, with Hibbert on the floor, that number drops to, gulp, 76.6 points per 100 possessions.

For a defensive nerd like us, that number is enough to make us get up to make ourselves another coffee, or just scream in amazement (both of which we just did). There’s just no accounting for that wide gulf, other than to emphasize — like Hibbert did last night — how important Hibbert’s rim protection really is for this Pacers squad.

The other crazy thing? Hibbert is making the Pacers better on offense, too — at least in terms of on/off numbers. They’re scoring 13.5 points more per 100 possessions with the lumbering Georgetown grad setting high screens and swooping that lefy hook for buckets on the low block. So maybe it’s not just Hibbert’s defense we should be applauding, but his presence on offense seems to be helping a whole bunch too, despite shooting even worse so far this season. Last year he sported a below-average 48.9 true shooting percentage (which takes into account FT shooting). This year that number is even lower at 48.1 percent (primarily because of his drop to 60 percent from the charity stripe, which should improve to better than 70 percent before the year is out).

Later last night, Hibbert also tweeted out an MVP nod to Paul George, his second tweet after the ostensible goodnight to end his DPOY reference.

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This is another important factor when looking at Hibbert. How much is his defensive prowess tethered to two-way star George? George is one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, with long arms, fast feet and a concentration on defense some older stars in this league should try and mimic. But remember how we told you that Hibbert is defending against almost double the number of attempts at the rim as Anthony Davis down in Nah’Leans? That should help illustrate that even with George hounding opposing wings, Hibbert’s presence lets him gamble just a little bit more for steal, and let’s other Pacers leak out on defense after contesting a shot just a little earlier.

Roy Hibbert is the leading candidate for DPOY in our eyes, and maybe should have won last year, which Goldsberry alludes to in his contribution for Grantland. Despite defense being such a tricky skill to account for, with the new SportVU cameras in every NBA arena and with the data available, there’s no one even close to Hibbert when it comes to defending his team’s bucket.

God bless him, too — he’s certainly put the work in this offseason to improve after coming so close to reaching the Finals last year.

We’re pretty sure Carmelo Anthony agrees after last season’s Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. With 5 minutes to go, ‘Melo attempted what looked like a wide-open dunk at the rim. We all know what happened on that important possession. The Knicks never recovered.

Look for even more of that type of play from Hibbert moving forward. So go ahead and tweet out DPOY all year long, Roy, we “ain’t mad atcha“.

What do you think about Hibbert’s DPOY tweet?

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