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Player Analysis: George Hill

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 12, 2012

He did everything well in his first season with the Pacers, excelling as a starter and a reserve, at point guard and shooting guard.

The only problem, when it came to George Hill, was that there was only one of him.

With a calm, controlled and calculating presence on the court that belies his relative youth (26), Hill fit right in with the Pacers in his first season back in his hometown. It was not easy for him to leave San Antonio, the only NBA home he had known, but it came down to this for the Spurs: to commit to either Hill or Tony Parker as the point guard.

There was a time last summer when it appeared they might choose the younger Hill, who had excelled while filling in for Parker, but the Spurs opted to keep their veteran core together for one more season and Hill was dealt to the Pacers for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard (and Davis Bertrans) as well as Erazem Lorbek.

At the time it looked like a lopsided deal in the Pacers' favor but Leonard had a solid rookie year for the Spurs and Lorbek may finally make the trip from Europe to the NBA next season. Ultimately, both teams benefited as San Antonio reached the Western Conference Finals and the Pacers advanced to the East semifinals.

It took Hill a little while to find his rhythm within the Indiana framework and just when he was starting to roll he sustained a chip fracture in his left ankle and missed 12 games. He returned, started to get hot again and sprained his left shoulder, missing two more games. He returned again and was very clearly the leader of what became a strong second unit.

When the Pacers made the trade-deadline deal for Leandro Barbosa, Hill's role changed. Most of his minutes had come at shooting guard but with Barbosa aboard Hill shifted to the backup point guard slot. After a brief period of adjustment he again found his groove and the bench became an even bigger difference-maker.

But then starting point guard Darren Collison went down with a strained groin late in the year and everything changed.

Hill stepped into the lineup and suddenly the starters found their rhythm, the Pacers won seven in a row, surged into the third spot in the East and forced a difficult decision upon Coach Frank Vogel: what to do when Collison came back.

He couldn't disrupt a team that hadn't lost, so Vogel stuck with Hill, who started nine of the final 10 games and all 11 in the playoffs. As a starter, Hill averaged 13.9 points, 5.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds during the regular season. In the postseason his numbers were 13.5 points, 2.9 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals.

The Pacers fully intend to re-sign their restricted free agent, though an agreement on a contract extension could not be reached during the regular season, and view him as an integral piece in their core.

"We have to pick up where we left off to start and that's with George as our starter and the other guys that were in the starting lineup, that was a strong unit that outplayed most everybody that they played towards the end of the season," Vogel said. "That will be the starting point and if somebody either regresses or somebody behind them improves enough to earn the spot in the starting lineup, then we're definitely going to keep that open as a possibility."

A natural shooting guard coming out of IUPUI, a prolific scorer at Broad Ripple High, Hill has evolved into a promising point guard prospect. With his long arms, an angular frame, excellent speed and quickness and above-average athleticism, he has the physical tools to excel at both ends of the floor.

He has demonstrated sound decision-making both in his ball movement and shot selection; the only question is how much better he could become if he focused strictly on becoming a point guard.

"I'd like to see George have the mindset of only being the point guard all year, all offseason long, just work on point guard skills more -- pick-and-roll, running the team," Vogel said. "Every time he plays pickup ball, whoever he's with, I want him to play the point and just develop more that point guard feel, which is pretty strong already. But he's played so much shooting guard I'd like to see him really dial in to having that point guard mindset."

Now, if they could only find another player just like him.

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