After completing a three-team trade with the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks, the Utah Jazz now welcome point guard George Hill as the newest member of their team.
In a somewhat surprising move, it was reported Wednesday that the Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks had completed a three-team trade that is sending Indiana point guard George Hill to the Jazz, Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers and Utah’s 2016 first round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks.
That’s right fans, the Utah Jazz actually made a significant offseason move. Before the draft, even. This is huge. This is monumental. And it is extremely significant to the team’s outlook and attitude approaching the 2016-17 NBA season.
But while it was certainly a flashy move for a Jazz team that is usually pretty quiet during the summer months, the question that remains is, was it the right move?
Atlanta Hawks and the No. 12 Pick
Let’s start with the Jazz giving up the No. 12 pick in the draft to the Atlanta Hawks. From the Jazz’s point of view, trading the pick is evidence of one of two things (or perhaps both). Either Utah wasn’t very fond of who they could potentially snag in this draft given where their pick fell, or they simply felt that it was time to shift their focus from developing young talent to bringing in veterans and wins.
Utah worked out several players as part of the pre-draft process and speculation was beginning to heat up that perhaps they could grab the University of Utah’s Jacob Poeltl or that maybe they’d go for Deyonta Davis.
However, the Jazz obviously felt that obtaining Hill would be a better option than whatever might be available for them in the draft. There’s certainly a lot of substance to that thinking (which we’ll explore momentarily); hopefully this eve-of-the-draft trade won’t go down with a long 15-year history of sad Utah Jazz draft decisions.
For the Hawks, this move seems pretty interesting and once again means one of two things (or maybe both). Given that Teague had been an instrumental part of their rise in the Eastern Conference, which included nabbing the top seed in 2014-15 and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, trading him away might be evidence that the Hawks are preparing to go into rebuild mode, especially with the potential exit of Al Horford looming.
However, it could also mean that the Hawks are just ready to turn the starting point guard reigns over to Dennis Schroder. The fourth-year guard out of Germany often logged minutes in crunch time over Teague, especially in this year’s playoffs (however it’s rumored that Teague was playing through an injury throughout the season).
If this is the case, it’s my opinion that it might not necessarily be the right move for the Hawks. While Schroeder has displayed flashes of brilliance, he hasn’t really been all that impressive. With extended minutes this past season he shot just 42.1 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from deep. He’s also not as good of a finisher as Teague.
Nevertheless, there was also speculation that Teague had plans to leave the Hawks in free agency following this upcoming season anyway, so perhaps the Hawks saw it as their best chance to get some value in return for the eighth-year guard.
Jeff Teague vs. George Hill
One pair of questions that has been raised is why would the Pacers exchange Hill for Teague and if they had good reason to do so, then why wouldn’t the Jazz just trade their 12th pick directly to the Hawks for Teague instead of involving the Pacers and trading for Hill? The answer? It’s all a matter of fit.
After parting ways with lumbering big men David West and Roy Hibbert following the 2014-15 season, then opting to not re-sign the popular and successful head coach Frank Vogel, it’s clear that Larry Bird is set on making his small-ball Pacers dream a reality.
Teague certainly fits the bill as he is faster than Hill and known for pushing the tempo and attacking the rim. For their careers, Teague has been a better scorer and distributor than Hill and in this regard could be just the fit the Pacers are looking for at the point guard spot.
However, Teague certainly is a step backwards defensively from Hill and a backcourt of Teague and Monta Ellis surely isn’t going to scare any opponents (at least not on that end of the floor). While scoring has been an issue for them, the Pacers will have to hope they can still find a way to maintain a defensive presence after parting ways with a defensive specialist in Vogel.
Meanwhile, some of the issues the Pacers saw in Hill, along with his strengths, actually make him an ideal fit for the Jazz. Hill, at times, was criticized for not being aggressive or ball-dominant enough when he played for the Pacers.
However, with Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood controlling a lot of the ball handling themselves, this could provide Hill with the opportunity to do what he does best on offense, namely, spot up for threes and move without the ball.
Also, while some Jazz fans might be upset with the Hill pick-up based on perceived faults in his offensive game (though I gather that most fans are excited about the addition), his lock-down defense has been absolutely phenomenal and truly sets him apart.
Hill specializes in defending opposing point guards as his six-foot-nine wing span makes him a nightmare to beat. In the Pacers’ recent playoffs match-up against the Toronto Raptors, Hill was instrumental in shutting down Kyle Lowry.
Furthermore, while the Pacers were likely looking to add a younger point guard with potentially more of a ceiling, the Jazz desperately need veteran leadership and experience, which they will certainly get with Hill. Hill comes from the “School of Popovich” and has an incredible basketball IQ, provides a great presence in the locker room, and exhibits solid leadership skills.
There can be no denying that he is a huge upgrade over the Jazz’s former point guard options and his skill set truly fills in several glaring weaknesses that the team possessed.
How Good Can George Hill Be for the Jazz?
While Hill’s numbers this past season and over his career (about 12 points and 3 .5 assists per game) might not stand out much, to get a better feel of what he’s capable of, it’s really important to look at his 2014-15 performance.
With Paul George out for nearly the entire year, George Hill was forced to step up and shoulder a much larger load offensively. Despite missing 39 games due to injury, once Hill was back in the rotation and healthy, he absolutely lit it up for Indiana. He put up career highs in points and assists with 16.1 and 5.1, respectively.
He also displayed superb finishing ability and was lights out from the field, converting on 54.4 percent of his two-point attempts.
There’s no doubt that with a young team like the Jazz, Hill will have an excellent opportunity to play more aggressively and effectively. He shot just shy of 41 percent from behind the arc last season and will provide an excellent deep threat for his new Utah squad.
Also, I’ve already touched on Hill’s solid fit from a defensive and veteran experience standpoint, but all signs indicate that Hill is thrilled to be joining this Utah squad as well. Hill’s agent, Bill Neff, had several positive things to say about him becoming the newest member of the Jazz–
“This is a good fit for George. One, George likes it in Utah. Two, George has a close relationship with Gordon Hayward [both are Indianapolis natives]. Three, [Jazz general manager] Dennis Lindsey was largely responsible for bringing George to San Antonio. George has worked with [Jazz coach] Quin Snyder. This is one of the teams George has always wanted to play for.”
“I’d hope a team doesn’t give up a lottery pick to take a guy for one year. George likes stability; he’s not the kind that wants to move around.”
These are pretty solid statements that the Jazz should certainly got excited about. Furthermore, Hill’s agent also brought up the fact that Larry Bird and the Pacers front office made comments alluding to the team only having “two good players” (Paul George and Myles Turner) which unsurprisingly rubbed Hill the wrong way.
Hill is reportedly excited to join a team and community where he feels he will be supported and feels that Utah will be great for him as a “family guy.” All early indications are that on and off the court, Hill will be an exceptional fit for the Utah Jazz and that this was a great move by Dennis Lindsey.
Finally, let’s not forget or undervalue the fact that legendary coach Gregg Popovich openly referred to George Hill as his favorite player. A player who has the work ethic and mentality to garner such a compliment from the likes of Popovich is certainly the type of player any team should be happy to have on their roster.
What Does the Future Hold for the Jazz?
While Hill’s agent indicated that the 30-year old guard out of IUPUI would likely want to stay with the Jazz long-term, this certainly doesn’t answer the question of what’s in store for the other point guards on the Jazz roster.
With George Hill as the newest member, the Jazz now have five point guards on the roster including Shelvin Mack, Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Trey Burke. Burke is the likely choice to be shipped out, but the Jazz have a decision to make on what to do with the remaining point guards.
Exum’s high ceiling ensures he will stay on the team and he’ll likely log significant minutes to learn under Hill and have time to comfortably come back from his injury. Mack is on a non-guaranteed contract, but certainly made a strong case to stay with the Jazz last season.
Then again, Neto also showed flashes of brilliance with his relentless defense and reliable three-point shot.
However, it would be nice to turn the logjam at the point guard spot into help at some of the Jazz’s weaker positions such as backup small forward and backup center. With the bold move to add Hill, it’s pretty clear that the Jazz are poised and set to begin making the necessary moves to add the talent they need to win.
This was Utah’s first move of the offseason, but don’t expect it to be their last.
What does the addition of George Hill mean for the future? Well, Jazz fans, it means that Utah is once again focused on competing and winning.
It means that the rebuild is over.
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com