Crooked Hook – Roy Hibbert’s Wrist and his Errant Shot
Anyone who has followed the Pacers this season – or who has followed me on Twitter – is painfully aware that Roy Hibbert is having trouble putting the ball in the basket. Standing 7-feet-2-inches tall and getting almost 80% of your looks within 10 feet of the basket comes with certain expectations, and a trended FG% chart that looks like this isn’t among them:
Missing three out of every five shots you take isn’t good for anyone, but it brings some unwanted attention to the recent recipient of a $58-million dollar contract. The spotlight gets even brighter when that players’ team is missing it’s leading scorer and struggling offensively.
Saturday, Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star shed some light on what is likely a contributing factor in Hibbert’s struggles, when he reported that the Georgetown product had a wrist injury,
“I haven’t had any power in my right wrist,” Hibbert said. “So my hand has been basically a stub.”
The injury traces back to last May’s playoff series vs. the Heat, but the severity of the issue was only determined recently.
The team’s medical staff determined Dec. 14 that there was a significant problem with his wrist.
“It doesn’t hurt. It just has weakness,” Hibbert said. “Things were just out of whack. I was getting the shots I wanted with my right hand, but a few would go completely off track. So my touch was basically gone. That’s why I was shooting more shots with my left hand in the post.”
Hibbert has been getting treatment on his wrist on a regular basis since the injury was revealed.
After spending most of the season shooting below 40 percent from the field, Hibbert went into Saturday having shot at least 50 percent from the field in four of the past five games.
Using Basketball-Reference’s great resources, we can see how (or if) this injury is manifesting itself in Hibbert’s effectiveness from the floor.
The spiderweb above shows Roy’s shot distribution by shot type for this season (blue) and last (yellow). There are a couple of things worth mention. First, “tip shots” as a percent of total have more than doubled year-over-year, but I’ll come back to that a little later. The bigger point here is that the hook shot is a big part of the big man’s arsenal.
Last year, almost 34% of Hibbert’s shots were hooks – more than any other type. This season, they’ve dropped a little bit, but still represent over 28% of his attempts. Given the nature and mechanics of hook shots – particularly the jump hook that is predominant in today’s game – it makes sense to assume that a wrist injury would have a disproportionately adverse affect on a player who relies heavily on them.
And this is what we see in terms of effectiveness:
This spiderweb shoots Roy’s FG% on each shot type. The blue (2013) is almost entirely contained within the yellow (2012), and that’s a bad thing. It means that Hibbert has been less effective in every shot type except for dunks. Far more importantly, he has dropped from .622 on hook shots to .476 this season. Looking at his shot charts on hooks comparatively for the two years doesn’t show a significant difference in where he’s getting these shots.
One of Hibbert’s vulnerabilities in the past was getting pushed a foot or two out of his comfort zone, but that isn’t readily apparent here. The shots are coming from the same spots on the floor, but he’s just missing a lot more of them. He has occasionally reverted to “throwing the ball at the rim,” as opposed to actually shooting it. To this point, I had assumed that it was simply Hibbert regressing to old bad habits, but this wrist injury could explain at least part of the issue.
Last season, Hibbert shot .497 from the floor. This is probably close to optimum for a player with Hibbert’s skill set and shot selection. This season, his shooting percentage has dropped 93 points to .404. Of that 93 point drop 41 points can be directly attributed to his decline in effectiveness on hook shots.
The waterfall chart above shows what the main drivers in his decline from a shooting percentage perspective are. The hook host is almost twice any other impact. However, percentages are somewhat abstract, so the chart below shows how many made baskets these declines have cost Hibbert – and the Pacers.
By dropping from .497 to .404, Hibbert has made 27 fewer buckets. That’s 54 points for a team for whom half of their 12 losses have been by 5 or fewer points. Twelve of those lost buckets come directly from Roy’s diminished effectiveness with hook shots.
However, that’s not to say that Hibbert’s failures offensively this season can all be laid at the feet of this wrist injury. There’s simply too much of Roy being Roy at work to say that it’s all about the wrist. This is most readily manifested when you look at the tips and lay-up numbers.
Over the course of the season, I’ve been pretty vocal in my frustration about Hibbert’s inability to convert inside.
That big red semi-circle inside 8 feet is very troubling, and it’s not all hook shots. The big fella’s conversion rate on lay-ups has dropped from .562 to .400, effectively costing the Pacers 6 makes. While the wrist could be at play here, it’s certainly influenced by Hibbert’s lack of balance and power around the rim.
Also, it’s possible we see some mental aspects creeping into the situation, when you start looking at substitution of shots. Hibbert has taken fewer hook shots this season, in favor of jump shots. This is a very bad thing. Even dropping to .476, Hibbert’s hook is an effective weapon. His jumper…not so much. Last season, Hibbert shot .260 in jumpers. This season, it’s up to .265. Just shifting 14 shots away from hooks to jumpers costs 5 buckets. Is this is a function of the defense and game flow, or is Hibbert shying away from the hook shot?
Getting back to the big red semi-circle, I return to the discussion of tips. Overall, he’s getting about the same percentage of his shots from tips and lay-ups this year (29.5%) as last (29.3%). However, the distribution has swung wildly towards the much less effective tips (.348 this year, .407 last). This is something my partner in crime, Jared Wade, has brought up when discussing the inside woes. By more than doubling tips as a percent of total shots, you lose about 4 makes.
The wrist injury is a concern, but not the only one. There are things that Hibbert can fix, and hopefully his recent upward trend in shooting percentage is an indication that he’s moving forward on them. Even if the wrist injury lingers all season, it is not unfair to expect the big man to improve into the mid-40s going forward. His defense has been up to snuff, but the Pacers can’t afford to have their center hovering around 40% from the floor all year long.
Meanwhile, the injury gives us something to watch – Roy Hibbert’s hook shot. It could be a bellwether of his recovery.
Stats and shot charts courtesy of the NBA and Basketball-Reference.com.