Ever since Roy Hibbert garnered his first All-Star selection last season, his production has dropped off quite a bit this year, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
He's still putting up 10.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 2.8 BPG in just 28 minutes per night, but Hibbert has had a largely unconvincing season so far.
Make no mistake, he's still a great defender and interior presence, but his sheer mass and skills should make him even greater.
At 7'2", 280 pounds, few big men should be able to keep up with Hibbert on defense. He's a major reason why the Indiana Pacers are ranked first in defensive efficiency this year (per Hollinger's Team Stats). When Hibbert is on the floor, the Pacers defense allows only 95 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball Reference).
No other team in the Eastern Conference has a big man as big as Hibbert. Although we've seen some big centers in this league struggle before, Hibbert is not one of them. He proved last year that his game is still improving, and it shouldn't be any different this year.
Out of every other center in the East (excluding the injured Andrew Bynum), only Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah are players who could physically beat up Hibbert down low. Tyson Chandler has a limited offensive game, and Al Horford and the Milwaukee Bucks' big men are all undersized.
Rebounding and interior size is going to help push the Pacers past the Miami Heat. If Hibbert doesn't show up in a potential playoff matchup, then the Pacers will probably be sent packing.
Although Paul George, David West and probably even Danny Granger are all better overall players that Hibbert, they don't wield the advantage that Hibbert holds over playoff opponents.
West and, more importantly, Hibbert will need to carry the load and help elevate the Pacers in the playoffs.
If Hibbert records a few monstrous games, then the Pacers have a chance to defeat anyone in the NBA. Getting out of the Eastern Conference may be a tough task, but the Pacers can do it if Hibbert has a string of admirable performances.
He's not the type of player who demands touches down low, and he excels in other aspects of his game, which has covered his ineffective offense this season.
Hibbert needs to continue pounding the glass against mediocre rebounding teams like the Heat and the New York Knicks and suffocate perimeter cutters in the paint. He doesn't need to score 25 points a night, but he has to get the best shots for himself and do everything else effectively.
Without Hibbert, the Pacers don't have any chance of beating any elite Eastern Conference team. He is the anchor of the team's defense and a matchup nightmare for most big men in the league, and he should take full advantage of all his assets.