George Hill is the least celebrated starter for Indiana. He’s the one starter that fans would readily replace. If only the Pacers had a better point guard they would have beaten the Miami Heat, right?
The Indiana offense was plagued with turnovers. In the regular season, the Pacers turnover percentage of 14.28 was fourth highest in the NBA. That number went even higher in the playoffs, as Indiana turned it over on 15.89 percent of possessions. Hill is a combo guard. He gets criticized because he isn’t a true point guard, and he receives blame for the Pacer turnovers.
Hill’s turnover percentage in the regular season was 10.73. Only Gerald Green had a lower percentage of Pacers that played at least 100 minutes. Hill’s turnover percentage did rise to 14.26 in the postseason, but the only Pacer guard or wing player to post a lower percentage was D.J. Augustin.
The Pacer offense seemed to stall out and lack explosion during the season, another supposed fault of Hill not being a true point guard. But Hill had a strong season as he finished the regular season 16th in the NBA in points per possession plus assists. His 1.298 was tied with Manu Ginobili and ahead of John Wall, Dwyane Wade, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. He was behind top point guards like Tony Parker and Chris Paul. (He was also behind Darren Collison, who was seventh in the NBA.)
If Hill performed at Paul’s NBA leading level of 1.484, he would have helped the Pacers produce 263.5 more points this past season. That would make Hill a super star point guard, an unreasonable expectation for Hill and an unreasonable assumption that Indiana could replace Hill with a super star.
Hill did have the highest offensive rating, by a long shot, on the Pacers at 117.1 points per 100 possessions. Second best was David West at 109.9. (Hill had the second worst defensive rating at 103. Augustin was the worst at 105.2.)
What about eight million dollars a year for that out of position point guard? With the 2014 offseason looming, where Indiana will have to figure out how to stay under the luxury tax while paying Paul George his new contract and trying to keep Danny Granger and/or Lance Stephenson, it seems that money could be spent elsewhere.
A point guard that plays well for the Indiana defense, that helps bring along young, potential stars in George and Roy Hibbert, and is underrated offensively is worth it.
Compared to other point guards that fell just behind Hill in points per possession plus assists, Hill is a cheap option. Mike Conley, a point guard on the similarly built Memphis Grizzlies, will see his salary rise from $8.6 million to just under $10 million in the next three seasons. Jeremy Lin makes over $8.3 million for the Houston Rockets. And John Wall will see his salary balloon to $17.8 million in the 2018-19 season.
One area that Hill could improve that would make his contract a better deal would be consistency on the pick and roll, especially in the playoffs. After watching all of Hill’s pick and rolls against Miami in the seven-game series that ended Indiana’s season, two games stood out. Game seven was horrendous for Hill, while game four was a spectacular performance from Hill.
In the deciding game, Hill lacked aggression and was ultimately nondescript on attacking the Heat defense with the pick and roll. The Pacers ran just six pick and rolls with Hill, and it produced zero points. Hill was 0-4 from the field off the pick and roll and committed one turnover. Even worse for Hill, he never stepped foot in the lane after a pick. He nonchalantly dribbled beyond the three point line after picks, and the only time he showed any urgency was when he decided to pull up for a jumper.
Contrast that game with what Hill did to Miami on 11 pick and rolls in game four. Those 11 possessions led to 15 Indiana points. Hill scored eight points on 3-4 shooting. He knocked down two 15 footers, but also drove into the lane and shot three times. He made one floater, missed another, and drew a foul. Hill was superb at finding Hibbert on the roll and George on the three point line, as George got two wide open threes, making one. The Pacers shot 5-8 from the field, 1-2 from three point range and 4-4 from the free throw line on Hill’s pick and rolls.
When Indiana plays Miami, Hill needs to provide a mismatch when guarded by Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole. As they did in game four, Indiana can exploit two mismatches by using Hibbert as the screener for Hill, which can force help side defenders to come off of George or West.
If Indiana can get game four George Hill, they can have an excellent weapon from the point guard spot. If unaggressive Hill shows up, the offense can fall into pathetic mode again.
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