The lockout has everyone a little depressed, so I have decided to do another more positive player review: Tyler Hansbrough.
A lot of people viewed this as Tyler Hansbrough’s ‘first season’ because he only played in 29 games last season due to an assortment of injuries and illnesses (including this bizarre inner ear infection that messed up his balance). If that’s the case, then Hansbrough had a pretty decent season. He played in 70 games (starting 29, mostly after Frank Vogel took over from Jim O’Brien) and averaged 11 points, 5.3 rebounds in 21.9 minutes. Under Vogel, he averaged over 14 points in 38 games, but that also corresponded with significantly more playing time and allowing Hansbrough to play to his advantages. He missed a few games here and there with little things and a bout with pneumonia, but for the most part he was healthy.
He had some big games — the back-to-back 29 and 30 against the New York Knicks in March (which was actually part of a very good month where he averaged 16.8 points) and the big game 1 againt the Bulls (22 points) — but like many ‘rookies’, Hansbrough was ineffective at times and wildly inconsistent.
That said, one of the most decorated collegiate players of all time is already proving a lot of people wrong — the people that claimed his style wouldn’t translate well to the NBA. Granted, Hansbrough is a little one-dimensional in his style — terrific off the pick and roll because he can be automatic with that mid-range jumpshot from 12-18 feet, gets to a line a lot with his aggressive play, and has a tendency to flip in tough shots close to the basket that don’t look great but can be effective. His post play is really just the turnaround fadeaway along the baseline or barreling to the hoop. He is super strong and has underrated athleticism, but isn’t quite a high flyer like a Josh McRoberts.
Against the right defender, Hansbrough can be a devastating player, as he showed in those Knicks games, but when his jumper isn’t falling or he is taking on a crafty defender who knows his tendencies, Hansbrough can struggle mightily. Because he is not much of a defender (yet) and isn’t a great rebounder, Hansbrough can occasionally become a liability, though he often makes up for it with his tremendous hustle. Hansbrough’s goes all out on every possession, and I think he learned throughout the course of the season that he won’t be able to do that forever and must gauge the flow of the game better.
Still, the Pacers must consider this a relatively successful season for Hansbrough because of all that he’s been through. Even though he had been starting under Frank Vogel, the Pacers hope they can eventually bring him off the bench as an energy guy who can change the flow of the game. For now, Hansbrough must continue to work on all facets of his play, especially his defense and rebounding, develop a few more most moves, and learn how to channel his aggression correctly. There is no reason why the 25 year-old can’t improve sufficiently to become the power forward of the future on this team. It might take a bit of time but if Hansbrough can become more consistent next season and average a few more minutes per game I think he’d be very capable of being a 15 and 7 kind of player.