In the summer of 2016, the Indiana Pacers needed more scoring and pace from the point guard position as Larry Bird was desperately trying to hold on to his superstar. The Pacers traded their defensive guard George Hill so they could add Jeff Teague, a pick and roll scorer and playmaker, to compliment Paul George. After five years, Hill left his hometown, went to the Utah Jazz, who hadn’t had a quality point since Deron Williams fled for the Nets.
Hill arrived in Salt Lake and around the league people thought George Hill had gone to where veterans on expiring contracts go to die. But George Hill had the last word.
In 2016-17 George Hill, the same George Hill who was traded from San Antonio to the Indiana Pacers for rookie Kawhi Leonard, the same George HIll who had been in two Eastern Conference Finals, the Indianapolis native George Hill who once called out the Indiana fans to stop rooting for the opponent, that George Hill was transformed in Salt Lake. He had a career year.
He took the most shots of his career and made the most shots. Career highs in field goal percentage, 40% from three. He had never been to the line as much as when he was with the Jazz. Career high in scoring, offensive rating, PER. His +/- was +9.3. When he played the Pacers in Salt Lake he had 30 points, went to the line 11 times, on 56.3% shooting. He had the last word.
He only played 49 games but he was healthy for the playoffs and the Jazz upset the Clippers in the first round. If you were writing the script, it was just about perfect for a free agent year and proving your worth.
Hill though had some detractors. He was never going to be an A-level point guard. He could defend and make open shots when need be but he was only as good as the third option, despite his leadership intangibles.
A free agent coming off a great year, he was wanted. Magic Johnson and the Lakers came calling but only with a one year deal. The Nuggets were interested. The Knicks always need a point guard. But Hill shocked everyone and signed a three year deal with the Kings for $57 million. It went against form. Most veterans- Hill was drafted in 2008- run as far and as fast as they can from rebuilding teams and Sac town especially (known for their rocky front office and zero stability). Unless they are taking a boat load of money.
Clearly the money was the thing and I’m not hating. Take what you can get if you are not a top tier player. But Sacramento is doomsday. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. Eleven straight losing seasons. Once they traded DeMarcus Cousins, they basically waved the white flag for the next five years. So $19 million is nice but what about all that losing?
George Hill has only had one losing season in his career and that was 2014-15 when Paul George was down with an injury. Already, it’s looking grim for Hill in Sac-town. He is not averaging 10 points a game. His 8.1 shots are a four year low. He is going to the free throw line at a depressing rate, 1.6 trips. He is a stranger in a strange land.
His rebounds are down, his assists are down, his turnovers are a career high. The last time he averaged 9.6 points (his current average) Kobe Bryant was still polishing his fifth ring while waiting for Dwight Howard to be his teammate.
Hill’s bread and butter, his defense, the reason anyone wanted George Hill in the first place, is atrocious. The worst defensive rating of his career. Of the Sac players logging 20+ minutes, George Hill has the worst defensive rating. Even old and slow Zach Randolph has been a better defender.
The Kings don’t do anything well on offense. They can’t shoot the ball with any kind of regularity. They don’t rebound, block shots, pass. They are at the bottom of the league in scoring. Their defense isn’t atrocious but it isn’t able to keep them in games with such weak offensive production. Their one win on the year was against a team just as bad as they are, the Dallas Mavericks.
Kings fans are not happy. They were a little bit shaky on paying a 31 year old that much money when he can’t drop 20 on Steph Curry and company. But Hill has never played on a team without an All-Star. His first few years he was with the Spurs and Tim Duncan, then Paul George and last season Gordon Hayward.
The Kings have out of their prime players like Zach Randolph and Vince Carter and then they have the kids, not an All-Star in sight. Hill, not dominant offensively, needs a star’s double teams to play off of, he needs finishers. He hasn’t been aggressive in his short time in Sacramento.
It’s Sacramento so this is what happens. You spend money and you don’t get a return. What Kings fans are hoping far is that this is Hill adjusting to his third team in three years and he’ll pick it up. Fast. Otherwise, it’s more doom and gloom for the worst organization in the NBA.
photo via llananba