For the Indiana Pacers to get back into the playoff picture, and possibly ascend to the heights that they were at a couple years ago, they're going to need last season's version of George Hill.

With Paul George out for all but six games, and Lance Stephenson moved on to Charlotte, Hill was forced to shoulder a bigger load than he's accustomed to offensively, and he did a surprisingly good job.

According to C. Cooper of Indy Cornrows, Hill was sneakily one of the best point guards in the league last season:

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"In a year's time, George Hill went from a deferential role player to an aggressive scorer. This transformation was, in part, likely due to the rigorous offseason workouts he put himself through last summer where he focused on staying more consistently involved on offense.

"But it could also be said that his emergence was largely the product of taking full advantage of increased opportunity.

"During the 2014-15 season, Hill used 23.8% of the team's plays while he was on the court, up from 14.8% a season ago when he most often shared the floor with Paul George (28.3%), David West (21.9%), Lance Stephenson (19.4%) and Roy Hibbert (19.4%).

"Asked to carry more of the scoring load, Hill became the team's most reliable clutch-time scorer and, though largely unheralded, his numbers were on par with that of a few All-Star caliber point guards."

Hill was the Pacers' best player last season by almost any measure, and while he's likely to take a backseat to George and the newly acquired Monta Ellis this season, the Pacers' new small-ball style will only work if Hill is aggressive and assertive.

Though the Pacers will struggle to make the playoffs if George doesn't return to his All-NBA self and Ellis is on his best behavior, the Pacers will only make noise in the postseason if Hill can contribute beyond expectations.

(h/t Indy Cornrows)