Player Review 2014: George Hill
Years Pro: 6
Status: Has three years remaining on his contract.
Key Stats: Averaged 10.3 points and 3.5 assists during the regular season. Scoring average dropped nearly four points from the previous season, but he took 3.4 fewer shots per game. Averaged 12.1 points and 3 assists in the playoffs.
George Hill is not a true point guard by his own admission, he didn’t lead the team in any major statistical categories, and he's not a vocal leader. Still, he probably qualifies as underrated.
Hill's scoring average declined from 14.2 points in 2012-13 to 10.3, but he isn't entirely to blame for that. His shooting percentages were nearly identical, but he played 2.5 fewer minutes and took 3.4 fewer shots per game – 255 fewer for the season. Someone was going to have to pay for the continued emergence of Paul George and Lance Stephenson, and Hill, Roy Hibbert and David West all did in the form of fewer scoring opportunities.
Still, it seems problematic for a contending team to have a point guard who doesn't really want to be a point guard. Hill adamantly clings to his notion that he's simply a “guard,” a combo player who is as much as shooter as a playmaker. His skill set confirms that, but the Pacers would seem to benefit from having a willing and able quarterback.
Photo Gallery: George Hill Season-in-Review »
Asked about Hill in his postseason press conference, team president Larry Bird hesitated before answering.
“I love how he defends,” Bird said. “You ain't going to find anyone better defending the point.
“I would like him to be more active on the offensive end. I think George turns down a lot of opportunities to score and with Lance out there, a lot of times Lance brings the ball up the court. He initiates the offense. But lately, I've been hearing a lot of talk about our point guard situation. I like George. But you never know what's going to happen in the summer. I love the way he defends. He plays the hardest position on the court (but) would I like him to be more aggressive on the offensive end? Yes.”
Hill is indeed a superior defender, a point often overlooked by critics. He also prefers to be out of the spotlight, a good thing because it helps maintain some balance on a team in which others are comfortable in it. He's the guy sneaking out of the practice court while teammates are being interviewed, to avoid detection by the media. All in all, he brings a touch of San Antonio's championship mindset, having played there his first three seasons.
His offense is more difficult to analyze. He's laid-back by nature, and seems to have to remind himself frequently to be more assertive. That 37-point outing against Portland on Feb. 7, when he hit 12-of-19 shots and got to the foul line for 12 free throws was intriguing and enticing. He also had nine rebounds and eight assists that night, showing his varied skills. While it's hardly fair to expect that on anything resembling a consistent basis, it showed what lies beneath that cool, almost detached, demeanor.
Hill, however, can argue that if he takes a greater role in the offense, who gets less? George? Stephenson? Hibbert wants more shots, too, and nobody is opposed to West – who had by far the best field goal percentage of all the rotation players – getting more shots. That's the Pacers' offensive dilemma. They have no genuine role player who doesn't look to score often, so someone has to assume that role on nights when George, Stephenson or whomever are dominating. More often than not that was Hill, whose most common role was to bring the ball up the court, pass to a teammate, run to the corner and await a possible kick-out pass. Hard to score much when that's all you're asked to do.
Hill and Stephenson are already a hybrid backcourt. Both are combo guards, rather than point guards or shooting guards. Perhaps it would work to everyone's satisfaction if Stephenson took over more of the ballhandling responsibilities and Hill could roam free more often. Stephenson is a free agent, though, so Hill's fate could be tied to his.
One way or another, it's likely to be an interesting off-season for the hometown kid.