After four seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Tyler Hansbrough was forced to find a new team this past offseason.
The Pacers rescinded their $4.1 million qualifying offer to Hansbrough on July 2, making him an unrestricted free agent. The move came in the wake of Indiana re-signing David West to a three-year contract.
A little more than a week later, Hansbrough agreed to a two-year, $6.4 million deal with the Toronto Raptors. Brought in for his notorious toughness, the power forward was well aware that he was leaving a title contender for a fringe playoff club.
“I knew we were a young team, so I’m not surprised with where we are at right now,” Hansbrough told RealGM about his decision to sign with Toronto.
An ankle injury has kept him out of the lineup since Jan. 1, but he has still had an impact with the Raptors. He is averaging 11.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes this season, a career-low in scoring but a career-high on the boards.
Hansbrough (13.5 percent) has the highest offensive rebounding percentage on the team and trails only Jonas Valanciunas in total rebounding percentage. The Raptors could have used him on Wednesday night. They were outrebounded mightily by the Boston Celtics (58-44) in a road loss.
The 28-year-old has just four seasons under his belt but brings a veteran presence to the locker room. Only three players on Toronto’s roster -- John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and Steve Novak -- are older and among those players only Salmons averages more minutes.
A first-round pick of the Pacers in 2009, Hansbrough witnessed a successful rebuild and played in 35 playoff games as an important member of the rotation.
“They worked extremely hard to get where they are and I’m not surprised at all,” Hansbrough said of his former team. “They play really well as a unit. I was with them for so long that I know what they do and why it works.”
Hansbrough is far from an extrovert, but his experiences in Indiana are something he can pass along to teammates in Toronto. Like the Pacers, the Raptors are looking to transform into a contender through smart drafting and shrewd moves.
“This is a younger team, but being around a team like the Pacers helps,” Hansbrough explained. “When I first got there they weren’t really a playoff team, but towards the end of my time there we were making deep playoff runs. What I take from that is what I saw in terms of how hard those guys work. Everyday you have to keep improving as a team and peak at the right time, towards the end of the season. I’m not a really vocal guy, but I know what to bring to this team to help them succeed.”
Hansbrough has missed a chunk of the time, but the Raptors are an impressive 12-5 since trading star Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in early December. The record comes as a surprise given the presumption that the team would struggle after dealing their best player.
“Kyle Lowry has been playing great, he deserves a lot of credit. He has really evaluated his level of play,” Hansbrough said when asked about the team’s success post-trade.
“I think once the trade was made some of the younger guys really stepped up, especially Terrence Ross. He’s doing a ton of things for us. It has been more of a team approach instead of a bunch of isolation. DeMar [DeRozan] is playing great.”
His analysis is the obvious one, given the high rate of possessions consumed by Gay and DeRozan this season. Gay used 30.6% of possessions while with Toronto this season and DeRozan has a usage rate of 27.3 percent this season.
There are now only three sets of teammates in the top 20 in usage rate (Russell Westbrook/Kevin Durant, LeBron James/Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki/Monta Ellis).