George Hill Is A True Difference-Maker

To say things are looking up for the Cleveland Cavaliers would be a major understatement. Just over a week after barely surviving a first-round series against the Indiana Pacers in seven games, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked absolutely dominant as they finished off a four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors. They dominated the number one seed in the Eastern conference in a way that even the biggest Cavs optimist didn’t expect. There are a lot of reasons the Cavaliers’ play has improved so much, from the revitalization of Kevin Love to the improved play of several role players. However, the biggest reason is arguably the return of the team’s starting point guard, George Hill

Full disclaimer, I’ve long been a fan of George Hill’s game, and thought he would be the trade deadline acquisition to make the biggest impact on the team. While not quite a star, Hill’s athletic two-way game combined with his solid outside shooting and high basketball I.Q. have always made him a highly effective role player who works well on a team built around stars. Hill has always been a selfless, team-first player, and it was easy to see why the great Gregg Popovich called him his favorite player.¬†¬†Hill’s the kind of tough, smart player who doesn’t back down from anyone.

While Hill was a solid player for the Spurs, and a top-notch backup to Tony Parker, it was after he was traded to the Pacers for Kawhi Leonard that Hill really it his stride. Emerging as a full-time starter in the 2012-2013 season, Hill was never the team’s primary ball handler, and has averaged just 3.3 assists per game for his career, but his ability to work as a secondary distributor and spot up shooter alongside Paul George was critical for a team that was more offensively challenged than most contenders. Arguably even more important was Hill’s defensive ability, a product of great instincts and a seven foot wingspan, as he was the point of attack for one of the best defensive teams the NBA has seen in the past twenty years. Like his time with the Spurs, Hill was with an organization that had established a winning culture, but now he was a bigger part of that culture than ever before.

Because of these skills, it would be easy to label Hill as a sort of 3-and-D point guard, but that isn’t quite accurate. Hill has always had the ability to create for himself and others, skills that were highlighted during the 2014-15 season, which George missed with a gruesome leg injury. That season, Hill averaged a then career-high 16.1 points per game while also setting a career-best with 5.1 assists per game. Most impressively, Hill did this while posting a true-shooting percentage of 57.7%, which is higher than a career mark of 56.7%. To up his usage like this without sacrificing efficiency showed that Hill was a more capable offensive player than many gave him credit for. While the Pacers went just 38-44 that season, and missed the playoffs by virtue losing the tiebreaker against the Brooklyn Nets, the fact that Hill was the primary scorer for a team anywhere near the playoff hunt shows that these weren’t just hollow numbers.

Eventually, that era of Pacers basketball ran its course, and Hill was traded to the Utah Jazz in July of 2016 in a three-team deal with the Atlanta Hawks for Taurean Prince. Hill played well with the Jazz, averaging 16.9 points and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting over 40% from three for the second year in a row. He also finished the 2016-17 season ranked seventh among point guards by ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus statistic, ahead of the likes of Damian Lillard, John Wall, and, yes, Kyrie Irving (in fact, the 2017-2018 season was the first time Irving ever measured better than Hill by RPM). When he was healthy, Hill was the second option for a team that made the Western Conference Semifinals, but health was a major issue. Hill played just 49 games in the regular season, and eight of a possible 11 postseason games as he battled several injuries including Turf toe. If Hill has one major negative as a player, it’s that he has battled injuries throughout his career, and played in just 109 of a possible 164 regular season games over the past two seasons. Given his age and injury history, it wasn’t that much of a surprise when Hill signed a three-year $57 million with the Sacramento Kings in July of 2017.

Of course, we know how that went. After spending his entire career with winning teams, Hill struggled to adjust to playing with the NBA’s equivalent of the Cleveland Browns. Whether it was the losing, inconsistent role, or simply apathy after signing a large contract, Hill struggled in every area of the game outside of three-point shooting during his time with the Kings. He stopped moving the ball, attacking the basket, and his defense went from excellent to terrible, seemingly overnight. By the end of his tenure with the Kings, Hill was ranked outside of the top sixty for point guard in Real Plus-Minus after ranking seventh the season before. It quickly became obvious that this was an incredibly poor fit between player and team. When Hill began to earn DNP-CDs as the Kings moved toward a youth movement, there was no doubt that he wasn’t long for Sacramento. Hill wanted to play for a winner, and the Kings wanted rid of Hill’s contract. A trade involving Hill to the Cavaliers was rumored for quite some time, and came to fruition when he was acquired as part of the team’s roster overhaul at the trade deadline.

Since joining the Cavaliers, Hill has continued to battle injuries, missing two weeks with a sprained ankle and most of the first-round series against the Indiana Pacers with a back injury. He’s averaging less than 10 points and three assists per game, and is shooting roughly league-average from deep. But none of that tells the whole story. After a bit of a slow start as he found his way with the team, Hill’s ability to give the Cavaliers another ball handler who can play alongside James and create for himself and others has opened up the team’s offense, as has his pick-and-roll chemistry with Kevin Love. He’s far and away the Cavaliers’ best defensive point guard, and the team has been substantially better on both ends of the floor when he is on the court. The new starting lineup of Hill, JR Smith, Kyle Korver, James, and Love has outscored opponents by over 17 points per 100 possessions as opposing teams simply cannot guard this combination of shooters and ball handlers. As a point of reference, that same lineup with Jose Calderon replacing Hill at point guard has actually been outscored this postseason.

George Hill may not be the flashiest player, but he’s been extremely effective both with the Cavaliers and throughout his career. He’s the kind of battle-tested two-way winner this team needed, and the Cavaliers are lucky to have him.

 

Share
Nate Smith
Admin
5 months 7 days ago
Nate Smith
Admin
5 months 7 days ago

Really thought he made some tragic playoff mistakes, including the disastrous Noguiera sub (Poeltle had been a problem for the Cavs in the first two games), and going away from the inside game. Also, VanVleet as a starter was a bit of a mess. Going to more wings earlier would’ve helped too. But he’s not the one who missed five straight shots at the end of game one. His OOT plays that ended too often in VanVleet 30-footers were also an issue.

Simmo
Guest
Simmo
5 months 7 days ago

Yeah. Sad reality of the business/sport, winning best coach award & being shown the door. On the the Lowe Post a great discussion w David Thorpe re where Casey wasn’t quite able to make it happen – not deserving to be fired, but Toronto being within their rights to try something different.

IMHO – if DeRozan had hit his newly discovered 3 pt shot, and managed to hit a few from the paint, things might have been different. I don’t think the coach was the issue.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 months 7 days ago

Classy guy.

I kind of compare the Raptors to where the Grizz were a couple years back when they fired their coach. Good team. Able to scare contenders in the POs. Not quite good enough to get over the hump.

Changed coaches & identities & went downhill.

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
5 months 7 days ago

I don’t think they are quite on that level. Memphis did have GS down 1-2 in 2015 after all. Casey was probably ok for them. He was not a great tactical coach but I don’t think that team was really going to go very far with someone else either.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 months 7 days ago

Not same level, but comparable in that they think they are better than they are & so changes coaches.

In reality, this is where they should finish. Maybe ECF if the Cavs weren’t such a mess in the regular season.

So they reach & collapse.

daspec90
Guest
daspec90
5 months 8 days ago

George Hill has been great! And while JR has the Pipe, Hill definitely has some pipes. Holy smokes, I think his biceps are bigger than Lebron’s.

CLF
Guest
CLF
5 months 8 days ago

Congratulations to George Hill graduating college today!!! It speaks to his character that he prioritized his education and saw it to the end. He even got to walk today!

Vintage
Guest
Vintage
5 months 8 days ago

Not gonna look ahead to the Finals quite yet – Celtics are going to be scrappy. I think all the games will be pretty tight. As we saw in the Pacers series, if the Cavs let their guard down, the series can go 7. However, Cavs had the chance to make that series short If they would’ve taken care of the 3rd quarter of Game 3, it would’ve been over in 5.

I think the extra round of experience for the non-core (LBJ, Love, JR, TT, Korver) will help and LeBron will smell blood to make sure he’s rested for the Finals. I’m predicting Cavs in 5.

\"new\"nomad
Guest
\"new\"nomad
5 months 8 days ago

SO I GUESS WHY EVEN BOTHER TRYING TO REACH THE FINALS —IF WE ARE SO SURE WE ARE GOING TO GET DESTROYED ????——– I THINK IF HOOD / CLARKSON / NANCE START TO GIVE SOLID MINUTES AND LOVE AND STARTERS CONTINUE THEIR SOLID PLAY —-THEN YES WITH LEBRON WE HAVE A CHANCE TO BEAT THE WARRIORS —WILL IT BE EASY –HELL NO —-BUT IT WILL BE EVEN SWEETER THAN THE LAST TIME !!!—GO CAVS !!

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 months 8 days ago

You battle to the Finals to give yourself a shot.

Perhaps Curry/Klay/Durant are slightly off from deep for a game or two. Or someone tweaks an ankle. LeBron goes nuts one game. JR/Korver another. Then GSW sphincters get tight. Dray loses his cool. Who knows?

Not likely. But you have to try.

Simmo
Guest
Simmo
5 months 7 days ago

Absolutely. Main reason people watch sport is to see the underdog climb up off the canvas & knock out the champ.

MikeO
Guest
MikeO
5 months 8 days ago

Somebody has to play in the Finals, may as well be the Cavs. If it’s the Warriors, I think Cavs have only the most microscopic chance barring injuries. You’d probably have to have JR, Lebron, Korver, Love and probably someone else going off more or less together for four games. And against one of the toughest defenses in the league. Impossible, no, but I would say exceedingly unlikely.

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
5 months 8 days ago

Why bother? I will answer despite this being a rhetorical question. Because maybe steph or KD sprain their ankle in the wcf. You go to the finals because it gives you a shot. Have no shot if you aren’t there. For me, I am resigned that GS basically is the greatest team since the 60s Celtics and that they are for all intents and purposes unbeatable in 7 games without injury. I mean last year’s cavs may have been one of the greatest teams ever and we still got only one game.

But whatever. I still enjoy watching playoff LBJ and will be happy just making the finals. Warriors over rockets in 5. Cavs over Boston in 6. Warriors over cavs in 4-5. Going to enjoy the ride up to the finals and maybe in the finals if LBJ goes nuts and the cavs are competitive in losses and get a game or somehow two games.

Chris K
Guest
Chris K
5 months 8 days ago

I appreciate everyone’s pragmatic approach… but if LeBron has shown us anything, it’s that he is capable of doing what was thought impossible. If the Cavs made the Finals, of course they would have a chance. I would argue that with Hill, they are defensively better than with Kyrie. I do not know who they put Korver on, but perhaps they just try to control tempo and outscore the Dubs… whatever, I will still watch them…if this is to be their end, then make it a glorious end…

MJ 45
Guest
MJ 45
5 months 8 days ago

Cavs make the finals. Cavs get destroyed by warriors in finals. Silly how everything and nothing has changed in 10 months

Though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea – Robert Plant

NickNevers
Guest
NickNevers
5 months 8 days ago

Basically how I see it unfortunately. I just don’t see any way to beat that time 4 times out of 7. They are just too good – 2 MVPs, 2 other all-stars. I’m hoping Houston somehow beats them as I’d rather take my chances with the Rockets.

Jason
Guest
Jason
5 months 8 days ago

Yep. Hill has been the gem of the deadline do-over. He has solidified the starting lineup.

Now Lue has to find a way to get something productive from the bench guys not named Jeff Green. Hood, Clarkson, & TT have to be better. And Cedi & Nance deserve shots.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
5 months 8 days ago

Great piece. The turnaround in his game from the beginning of the first round to the second round was incredible. Whatever treatments they gave to his back need to last throughout the rest of the playoffs.

Chris K
Guest
Chris K
5 months 8 days ago

That Pop effused about him is as much as a player could ask for…

wpDiscuz