The Tyler Hansbrough era is over in Indianapolis.
Hansbrough is heading north of the border to fight for a starting spot on the woeful Raptors, and you can’t fault him for that. After a so-so tenure with the Pacers, I’ve been having trouble this morning trying to encapsulate Hansbrough’s career with the Blue and Gold.
Some players in Indiana lore get immortalized, like Reggie Miller. Others, such as Jamaal Tinsley, become vilified. Players like Mark Jackson, Rik Smits, and Jalen Rose are all remembered fondly. You ask any Pacers' fan their memories of those players, and they'll have enough to write a book. But, Tyler Hansbrough? I'm not sure he illicits a reaction.
That's because Hansbrough was just... there. He was a decent backup forward. He was the "C" you got on your book report, or the turkey sandwich with non-spicy mustard that you made for lunch. He’s the movie in the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart that you've seen once, and always consider buying, but never do. For as remarkable as his collegiate career at North Carolina was, his Pacers career was that unremarkable.
Hansbrough did drive opponents crazy, which was entertaining to watch
Tyler Hansbrough wasn't a great player, but he wasn't a bad one. He always brought energy and played hard, even though his limitations on the court were obvious. His best year was his sophomore campaign. As the leader of the “Goon Squad” (remember when the Pacers bench was actually an asset?), Hansbrough put up career-highs in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and minutes. However, as the Indiana progressed over the next two seasons into championship contention, Hansbrough seemed to regress. He was arguably the best player on a bad second-unit this past season, but averaged just 7 points in 17 minutes per game – both career-lows.
Although he was hardly a Draft bust, I'll never be able to think of Tyler Hansbrough without thinking about what could've been with that 13th overall selection in the 2009 Draft. That may be unfair, but it's something that I can't separate him from. If you remember, the Pacers were in desperate need of a point guard, and it was a draft filled with great prospects at that position. Those top players (Curry, Rubio, Jennings) were already gone by the time the Pacers picked, but Ty Lawson, Indy native Jeff Teague, and the raw but talented Jrue Holiday were all still on the board. Instead, Larry Bird opted for the “safe” pick in Hansbrough - a highly productive, low-ceiling, four-year college player destined for a career as a reserve. While there's nothing wrong with getting a player of his ilk at #13, when you look at what could've been with Holiday (an All-Star last season), Lawson, or Teague, you wonder if the Pacers are in an even better spot today.
(Side note: Ever play the “what if?” game? Maybe the Pacers take one of those three PGs instead of Hansbrough, then decide not to make the George Hill trade, and keep Kawhi Leonard for themselves. Can you imagine a starting lineup of Lawson, George, Leonard, West, and Hibbert? This is all a total waste of time, but I'd be lying to you if I said I hadn't stopped and pondered this scenario.)
So, we bid Tyler Hansbrough adieu. I hope he finds success in Toronto, and wins that starting spot that he covets. He was a good guy and an effective reserve, who represented himself well on and off the court. But, when people ask me ten years from now my memories of Hansbrough in Indiana, I'm not sure I'll be able to come up with anything at all.
I’ll probably think of that dull turkey sandwich I made for lunch yesterday. Sure, I ate it. But, I’m not sure that I really enjoyed it.