Big men come and go in the NBA. Some are more successful than others (Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), while others have struggled to play at the professional level due to outside factors like injuries (Sam Bowie, Greg Oden).
Roy Hibbert is one of a few big men in the NBA whose career took a very different path from the aforementioned players. He was never considered the dominant center in the league and he probably still isn't, but he uses of his 7'2", 280-pound body to his advantage.
In every year he's been in the league, he has improved steadily. Although he faced his struggles on offense during the beginning of this season, he has bounced back admirably and is now the most important player on a title-contending Indiana Pacers squad.
This slideshow will analyze three areas of the game that Hibbert greatly affects due to his sheer size and ability to play close to the rim.
Although Hibbert has let opposing centers register a PER of 15.3 when they're going head-to-head with him (per 82games.com), it's his ability to alter shots and record blocks around the rim that makes him such a terrifying interior defender.
His role on the Pacers is kind of like Tyson Chandler's role on the New York Knicks. Hibbert instantly makes the team better on defense when he's on the floor. Obviously, Hibbert is a much better offensive player than Chandler, but his interior defense is comparable to that of Chandler or Marc Gasol.
According to Basketball Reference, the Pacers were a net plus-10.4 when Hibbert was on the floor vs. when he was on the bench. In the playoffs, that number has risen to an incredible plus-17.7 on-off rating. Additionally, he has averaged 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes for his career.
He anchors the best defensive team in the entire league (per Hollinger's Team Stats), and it's no surprise that the Pacers have made it this far with Hibbert controlling the paint on both ends of the floor.
Rebounding is one of the less glamorous sides of basketball. But as anyone would tell you, you can't win a game if you don't rebound the ball.
Typically, the team that grabs the most boards in a game wins the game at the end. According to Team Rankings, the Pacers rank first in total rebounds per game and second in offensive rebounds per game.
Hibbert grabs 3.7 offensive rebounds per game and 4.7 per 36 minutes. His size and positioning in the paint has improved throughout the years, and he's averaging a staggering 5.1 offensive rebounds per game during the playoffs. That's roughly 10 easy second-chance points, which includes tip-ins or offensive-rebound putbacks.
With a player like Hibbert on the floor, the Pacers have a high chance of getting second opportunities on offense, which is certainly helpful considering that their offense has been inconsistent at times during the season.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Hibbert has averaged an astounding 6.5 offensive rebounds in four games as he continues to punish the Heat's smaller big men on the glass.
He has also attempted 10 or more free throws in two of those contests, which is also a direct effect of getting second-chance opportunities because the other team must foul to prevent an easy layup.
There should be a stat that says how many opposing teams have altered their lineup to adjust to Hibbert being on the floor.
This is quite evident against the Miami Heat.
Hibbert presents enough of a problem on both ends of the floor that they are forced to play Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem heavier minutes.
Andersen has seen his minutes average go up from 14.9 to 18.4 minutes per game in this series so far and it's no coincidence. He's relied upon to do much more when the only other big man that gets consistent minutes is Chris Bosh.
Hibbert's presence also has taken away the Heat's small-ball approach. He pounds them on the glass and has averaged 22.8 points per game in this series so far, and his the Heat are starting to become more reluctant allowing a player of Hibbert's caliber to beat them down on the inside.
It's been like this for most of the year as well. The opposing team must put a big man on the floor who could at least try to nullify Hibbert's presence, or else they will be at a major disadvantage on both ends of the court.