The Indiana Pacers were heading into next season with renewed optimism after the return late last season of Paul George. Even though he did not play the way he did before the leg injury, he showed glimpses of being his former self out on the court. And even though they were not getting a ton from center Roy Hibbert, there were some thoughts that the team would make more strides towards returning to what they were on the court. But the strides they would making, there was the realization that Hibbert would never be the same player that showed up in enough time to get a big contract from the Pacers. The team was probably hoping he did not pick up his player option for next season that would have paid him $15.5 million in 2015-2016. But on draft night, Hibbert exercised his option and took up the team on the last year of his deal. Immediately upon signing, many wondered if he would ever suit up for the Pacers again. And as time went on, it seemed to be a certainty that he was gone. The Pacers were shopping him around and hoping that anyone would take him off their hands. The results may have not came immediately, but the Pacers seemed to have found a match for Hibbert and his contract. The Los Angeles Lakers are willing to ship some pieces to their team to take a chance on potentially reviving Hibbert’s career. And for Indy, they seem to be content with letting HIbbert go.
Last season, the Indiana Pacers were a team that did not have much offense to go around. In fact, they ended the season 24th in scoring. But as bad as they are offensively, the Pacers were a top five defensive team. And despite what some may think of Hibbert, he was a part of that defensive strategy there in Indianapolis. But with the trade, he is no longer there to cover for the mistakes perimeter defenders may be making. So with Hibbert gone, expect the defense to drop down a level. But don’t be mistaken. The Pacers will still be a solid defense next season. Backup center Ian Mahinmi will be able to step in and make an impact defensively. Despite being shorter than Hibbert, who is 7’2”, Mahinmi is able to cover more ground. And with that, the Pacers defense will be quicker to the basketball and therefore be more versatile with the quicker Mahinmi. But the veteran backup is not the only player that will have an impact in the front court of the Pacers. Offensively, rookie big man Myles Turner will step in and add a different flavor for the Pacers offense. He easily is the most versatile big man on their roster and with his range shooting the basketball, he will be able to pull opposing big men away from the basket. And when that happens, that opens up lanes for newly-acquired Monta Ellis along with Paul George and Rodney Stuckey to attack the basket. With no one at the rim and with all three of these guys having great explosiveness to the rim, the pressure they would put on defenses without a big at the rim would give teams headaches. This move may change the Pacers, but it will make them better overall in regards to their team speed. And there may be some more pieces to add to this equation once the compensation has been agreed upon. The two most mentioned names are forward Ryan Kelly and center Robert Sacre. Of these two, Kelly would be the most help on this team due to his ability to shoot the three and his size as well. He would be a part of helping remake the Pacers offensively while still helping to maintain a solid defensive presence.
The Pacers look solid going forward, but the Lakers are somewhat of an enigma. They have struggled the last two seasons and it seems like big-name free agents are avoiding the Lakers like the plague right now. The Lakers added players like Lou Williams and Brandon Bass in free agency, rookie D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, who was lost last season after the first game. Add that group with a healthy Kobe Bryant and the Lakers look a little better than they did last season. The Lakers were a team that were porous defensively and before Hibbert, the Lakers are a porous defensive team. With the addition of Hibbert’s services, he can be a force defensively provided he does not have to move much or guard on the perimeter. And with the Lakers, he can be someone that can upgrade what they got defensively out of the center position despite his limitations. But for as much as he could help them defensively, he could be a non-factor when playing against the teams that can go small. When that happens, Hibbert is at a disadvantage due to his lack of foot speed. And that can cause some issues for the defense in Los Angeles. Offensively, Hibbert was a player that could make it happen at one point in his career. But over the last couple of years, it seems as if he has regressed and not taken advantage of his physical tools offensively. Sliding him into the Lakers lineup is something that will be hard to do because of the speed the Lakers will want to play at. Hibbert is best at a slow-paced game where he can post up. But with the Lakers, can we expect them to slow the ball down when he is out there? That is something that is yet to be determined but the best guess is that he will not fit what they want to do offensively at all. In the end, the Lakers traded for someone they could have a trial run with for one season and it will not hurt the development of their young players. Should Hibbert not fit, the Lakers could let him walk next season and gain back the salary cap space created by his departure. And as for Hibbert, he could go out to Los Angeles and help his value going into the summer of 2016. It could be a winning situation for Hibbert and the Lakers or it could go horribly wrong for one of them. This marriage for the 2015-2016 season will be something to watch.
Ultimately, the Pacers moved forward and got rid of a guy that was once considered part of their future. And as for the Lakers, they are taking a chance on the former Georgetown big man for one year. Both teams have some things they like and don’t like, but the Pacers just made themselves better while the Lakers are playing again for the future. Only time will tell is both of these teams win in this trade. But for right now, it looks like the Pacers are winning this one in the immediate future.