Roy Hibbert is having what can generously be described as a down year offensively. His scoring average has dropped 3.1 per game, his field goal shooting has dropped 10.4%, and he’s taking fewer free throws per game (while shooting a career low percentage from the stripe) than any season save his rookie year, when he was playing half the minutes he is now.
The problem, near as I can see, can be traced to the astonishing lack of accuracy Hibbert has displayed on his trademark move: the hook shot. Not nine months ago, I took to writing this post about the Hibbert hook and how it had become one of the most devastatingly effective shots in the league. By the end of the regular season, Hibbert taken taken 231 hook shots and connected on 145 of them, or 62.8%.
This season, that number has tumbled all the way down to 48.0%. Hibbert has made just 36 of his 75 attempted hook shots so far. Knowing this, it’s not hard to see why his production has declined in post-up opportunities, on cuts, and off offensive rebounds. Hibbert’s best weapon is failing him.
From watching the video of Hibbert’s hooks, two main differences between this year and last can be gleaned. First, he’s shooting too quickly off the catch far too often this season. Last year, one of the most important factors in Hibbert’s game when deploying his hook shot was his patience. He’d catch the ball in the post, wait out a cutter or two, back his man down and drop the hook shot over him. There’s more “catch, hook” and “catch, one dribble, hook” this season, and it’s not helping things.
Just 42.1% of Hibbert’s made hooks last year were of the assisted variety. He was doing much of the creating himself once he established position and received the entry pass. This season, Hibbert’s been assisted on 55.9% of his hooks, shedding light on how differently those attempts have come.
Here’s a pretty good barometer: in Pacers wins this season, Hibbert is actually shooting 61.0% on hook shots, pretty close to his percentage last season, per Basketball-Reference. He’s only been assisted on 48.0% of those hooks, again relatively close to the rate he was assisted on hook shots last season. But in Pacers losses this year, Hibbert is connecting at just a 28.1% clip on hooks, having been assisted on 78.0% of those makes.
Of course, he’s also not exactly been successful when he has displayed his trademark patience before unleashing his hook, which brings us to the other difference between this season and last: he’s turning baseline rather than middle a bit too often, especially from the right side of the court. He’s already taken 13 of his hooks from outside the lane on the right hand side of the court after attempting just 33 from the same location last season in the playoffs and postseason combined. Those attempts haven’t been very successful this year; he’s just 4-for-13 (and 3-for-7 on similarly located shots from the left side).
Perhaps it’s the cramped spacing due to the absence of Danny Granger. Perhaps it’s the pressure of a new max contract. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. Whatever it is, Roy Hibbert’s favorite shot isn’t dropping this year. That can change with a few slight tweaks to his approach.