Indiana Pacers 2013-14 Player Review: George Hill

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

George Hill, the point guard that hides from the label of point guard, is often blamed for not running the Indiana offense well enough. But is it Hill's fault? Or is Hill being hidden in the shadows of Indiana's offensive scheme?

George Hill / Point Guard / Age 28

Contract status: $8 million through 2016-17. No player or team options. All of the $8 million for next season is guaranteed.

2013-14 regular season stats

76 GP, 76 GS 10.3 PPG, 51.9% eFG, 3.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.2 TPG

Playoffs

19 GP, 19 GS 12.1 PPG, 52.2% eFG, 3.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 TPG

Hill finished with his lowest points scored per 100 possessions of his career at 16.7. He had scored over 20 points per 100 possessions for the last four years. But that career low was directly correlated to Hill taking career low 13.1 field goal attempts per 100 possessions.

Hill only topped 20 points five times in the regular season, and Indiana was 4-1 in those games. He attempted 15 shots in just four games; Indiana was 3-1.

In the 2012-13 season Hill scored 20 or more points 12 times, which led to seven Pacer wins. He attempted 15 shots in 18 games in 2012-13. The Pacers only won six of those games.

In 2012-13 Hill shot less than eight shots in 10 games; Indiana was 9-1. In 2013-14 Indiana went 18-12 in the 30 games that Hill attempted less than eight shots Hill_graphic_medium

So aggressive George Hill doesn't translate into Pacer victories.

How did George Hill impress?

But let’s take a look at Hill’s best scoring game from this past season – a 37-point performance in an overtime win over Portland. Hill was masterful on the pick and roll, especially with David West as his screener.

Hill did a tremendous job of going away from the ball screen and attacking the rim.

In both instances, the Pacers have run all of their players to the opposite side of the court, which allows for Hill to have free reign of half of the court. This is aggressive George Hill. He’s getting past Damian Lillard with a quick first step, attacking big men and finishing at the rim.

This is the George Hill that is worth $8 million per year. It is also something the Pacers offense could use during stagnant possessions. There isn’t much off-ball movement once Hill starts the pick the roll. Even West screens and stands – readying for a jumper. But Hill is able to score and make it look easy. If Hill can produce this consistency on the pick and roll, then the Hill-West pick and pop can become a go-to set late in the shot clock.

The way Portland played these screens is perfect for Indiana when West is the screener. Because Hill has drawn so much attention from two defenders, West is wide open and in his sweet spot.

You can see Meyers Leonard start to close out to West, but Hill keeps going to the rim. So Leonard stumbles and doesn’t know where to go for a moment. That moment and Hill’s aggression are enough to free West for the mid-range jumper. Hill found West throughout the game for that shot, so in overtime Portland changed their defense and switched the screen.

But Hill sizes up LaMarcus Aldridge and scores. An offense – albeit for a single game – centered around Hill forced a defense to change its approach. And Hill beat that adjustment too.

Another facet of the pick and pop that Indiana exploited in this game was a very high ball screen in semi-transition.

It is early in the shot clock, and West sets the screen well beyond the three-point line. This gives Hill more space to attack the defense, and forces the defense to cover more ground.

When done on the fly while Hill has his speed built up, it is even harder for the defense to defend.

Both of those resulted in long twos. That’s not the ideal shot for Hill. But when defenses sag the big man on the pick and roll, the guard will have lots of open mid-range jumpers. Knocking them down can shred the defense. That’s what point guards like Goran Dragic and Mike Conley did the Pacers pick-and-roll defense this season.

How did George Hill disappoint?

Hill has the ability to carve up these defensive strategies, although he hasn’t shown it consistently. But what really has been the problem has been facing higher pressure defenses.

Hillto1_medium

West has screened for Hill, but Miami trapped Hill and forced a turnover.

Hillto2_medium

Miami forces Hill to try and turn around while he is close to the sideline. Ultimately Hill tries a jump pass over the trap, but he overthrows Roy Hibbert.

Hill’s turnovers per 100 possessions are only slightly worse against Miami when compared to the regular season. Although his turnover percentage on pick and rolls went from 11 percent in the regular season to 15 percent in the six playoff games against Miami.  But the trap takes out the threat of Hill getting to the rim. It also makes Hill’s turnovers more likely to result in transition opportunities for the opponent.

But the biggest complaint of Hill is that he doesn’t facilitate the entire offense enough. Considering that Hill had just one double-digit assist game in the regular season that may be a valid complaint.

Hill only had nine games in which he had seven or more assists. And Indiana went 7-2 in those games. Go back the prior season and Hill had 15 games with seven or more assists; Indiana was 9-6. That gives the Pacers a .667 winning percentage when Hill has seven or more assists the past two seasons.

But that’s not solely on Hill. The Pacers offense is not constructed around Hill creating for teammates. Frank Vogel’s favorite sets involve Hill dribbling at the top of the key and Paul George running through screens for a three. Whether or not George makes the three has almost nothing to do with Hill.

Also, Indiana loves to freeze the offense and throw it into Hibbert on the block – or wherever his opponent pushed him to. Given the amount of time it takes Hibbert to get into and complete a post move there is almost no chance of an assist for Hill.

Unlike the game against Portland, Vogel doesn’t call on Hill to run the offense through ball screens. So it is unfair to critique Hill on his facilitation.

But that doesn’t mean Hill can’t be creative on his own. And it doesn’t excuse Hill – and the rest of Indiana – for horrid post entry passes. Hill could be better as a point guard, but the offense doesn’t call for that.

None of this even covers Hill’s quality defense. He struggles with quick, small point guards. Other than that, he is what Indiana wants in a defensive point guard. And if you can’t hold up on defense, then you likely won’t see the floor for Indiana. (Hello, Chris Copeland, But why would Luis Scola get to play then?!)

Ultimately Hill isn’t killing the Pacer offense. But unless he can improve his ball handling and passing when trapped, he’s not going to be an answer for consistently giving Indiana efficient offense.

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