An average of 13 points, nine rebounds and two blocks isn’t exactly the stat-line most NBA general managers look for when they toss around the idea of a maximum contract offer.
However, there aren’t a whole lot of 7’2 true big men in the league, either.
For this reason, the Portland Trail Blazers decided to offer Indiana’s Roy Hibbert a four-year, $58 million max deal.
Now, the Pacers have no choice but to match that offer.
Sure, a four-year $58 million deal is a little scary for any organization, especially when it comes to a player who quite possibly could be at his maximum potential. In this case, however, it’s more risky to let an All-Star center head to Portland.
Not only is Hibbert a top-four center in the league, he played a key role in the Pacers success this past season. He was the only reason Indiana had any chance to take down the eventual NBA champions, Miami Heat.
Hibbert’s size, length, and defensive presence is what sets him apart from many of the other centers in the game. His youth, willingness to work, and positive locker room mentality are additional reasons why newly appointed team president Donnie Walsh and general manager Kevin Pritchard must offer the former Georgetown Hoya the same deal he received from Portland.
If the Pacers front office fails to match the Blazers offer and Hibbert walks, it would be virtually impossible to replace his presence on the court.
Yes, Indiana has been in talks with Chris Kaman, who has shown interest in coming to a young team with playoff experience. And yes, Kaman is a much more offensive-minded big man who can be a viable option at the end of the game.
But while Kaman is a good second option, he is five years older than Hibbert, injury-prone, and a defensive liability. With the offensive firepower that is provided by David West, Danny Granger, Paul George and George Hill, the Pacers need someone who can take a little bit of pride in defending the paint and cleaning up the glass.
Not to mention, if Hibbert leaves Indiana, there is no guarantee that Kaman would be suiting up in the blue and gold next season. Walsh and Pritchard would have to hope they could throw enough money at the 30-year-old center to entice him to come to Indianapolis.
If the Pacers choose not to re-sign Hibbert, it’s quite possible they could be stuck with no one to play center position but the newly drafted Miles Plumlee.
And you thought Pacers fans were irate on draft night.
Outside of Kaman, there is no big man who can replicate Hibbert’s effectiveness on the floor. With the Pacers lacking a decent backup big man, they can ill-afford to lose one of the top centers in the game, leaving them with just Plumlee as the only big man on the roster.
The idea of Walsh returning and Pritchard arriving to take over for David Morway and Larry Bird received a lukewarm reception from fans in the state, which would only turn stone cold if Hibbert walks.
This decision seems so easy, and maybe it is. Perhaps the reason Pacers officials met with Kaman was to try and talk him into coming to Indiana to play a backup role. That scenario is hard to believe, but then again, stranger signings have occurred in the NBA.
If Hibbert isn’t back in a Pacers uniform next season it would not only leave a big void on the court, it would be a huge step back from all the progress the organization made under Bird.
It would be hard to convince a fan base that had just come back around to supporting their hometown basketball franchise that letting their only All-Star player walk away was for the best.