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NBA Power Rankings: George Hill's return buoys Indiana Pacers

Early returns from George Hill's return reinforce Larry Bird's preseason assessment of the guard: "...he's gotten a lot better."

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Having suffered a torn quadricep during the NBA's preseason, George Hill has only appeared in uniform for the Pacers four times this season. Though only two of those contests have resulted in wins, the Pacers have outscored opponents by 25 collective points since the Broad Ripple product's return. Averaging 12.8 points per game, Hill is currently the Blue-and-Gold's leading scorer. While small sample size is certainly something to consider here, there is no denying the impact the elder half of the G2 Zone has on the Pacers when he has been on the court thus far this season.

Pacers Overall GP MIN OffRtg NetRtg AST Ratio eFG%
2014-15 32 1546 97.9 -3.2 16.1 47.3%

On/Off Court GP MIN OffRtg NetRtg AST Ratio eFG%
George Hill On Court 4 96 103.3 -2.0 19.0 51.2%
George Hill Off Court 32 1450 97.6 -3.3 15.9 47.0%

Since returning to the line-up, the Pacers have begun moving the ball more and with greater purpose. As can be seen above, Indiana's overall assist ratio (number of assists a player or team averages per 100 possessions) is 16.1. When Hill is on the court, that number jumps to 19.0. This is a notable jump, given that the Atlanta Hawks lead the entire league in assist ratio with 19.6 assists per 100 possessions.

"I think he wants to be a strong point for this team," head coach Frank Vogel told Vigilant Sports prior to the start of the season. "...I just think he wants to bring everything he possibly can to the table."

Over the last four games, Hill's honed skill set along with Indiana's renewed commitment to making the extra pass have lifted the Pacers' bottom dwelling offense. With Hill off the court, the Blue-and-Gold's 97.6 points per 100 possessions bests only the lowly Philadelphia 76ers (30th). The team's 103.3 offensive rating with Hill on the court would slot the Pacers at 18th if it continues to hold.

These early returns from the hometown hero's return along with a more favorable upcoming schedule (eight of Indiana's next 10 opponents are below .500) are reflected in the Pacers rise up this week's NBA Power Rankings.

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Slotting the Pacers at No. 20 (up from No. 23), Drew Garrison mentions George Hill's return and the fact that he is averaging a team-high 12.8 points per game.

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Matt Moore points out that the Pacers (No. 21) have gotten their health back at exactly the right time as they approach a relatively soft stretch of the schedule in January. He also points out a sad truth about the Eastern Conference: The Pacers (now 11-20) are only three games back of the No. 8 seed.

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Sliding them up from No. 24 to No. 25, Kurt Helin was the lone analyst to demote the Pacers in this week's power rankings. That being said, his commentary reiterates precisely what the above data indicates: "George Hill is back and while he has been much maligned in Indy he is a needed talent with this roster."

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Praising Frank Vogel's coaching ability, Matt Dollinger moved the Pacers up to No. 22. Though he did not recommend watching the Pacers, he marveled that Indiana - roster losses and all - is still managing to rank eighth in defensive efficiency.

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At No. 19, the Pacers managed to squeak into the top two thirds of ESPN's rankings. The only problem is that Stein - while commentating about Indiana's strange propensity to be somehow involved in ear-blowing antics - provided no rationale for bumping Indiana up three spots this week.

Though it may be only a modest rise, George Hill's presence - as exemplified by this week's power rankings - has provided the Pacers' offense with a much needed boost. After missing the first 28 games of the season, the Indiana native has rather remarkably looked more in need of an oxygen tank than rust remover. Rapidly morphing into the team's most efficient scorer (minimum 9 field goal attempts per game), it should be noted that Bird's preseason praise of Hill already appears to be spot on.

"We got some guys we think are going to step up and play well," Bird told USA Today Sports. "I thought George Hill was excellent during training camp; he's gotten a lot better. I'm just amazed by how much better (Hill) has got.