Many have lauded the Utah Jazz for acquiring George Hill from the Indiana Pacers, citing his defensive presence as a major plus. But how good of a defender is he?
Dennis Lindsey shocked Utah Jazz fans last week by trading the No. 12 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft for George Hill. Hill is a well-known, but an unsung point guard, who played for Indiana Pacers. While many focused on Jeff Teague‘s part in the three-way trade, Hill, has quietly added to the depth of the Jazz’s young core.
Zach Lowe called Hill “a really good point guard,” while SB Nation’s Tom Ziller gave and A-plus grade to Jazz for the trade. Of course, Ziller gave everyone an A-plus in his pice, but still–TOP MARKS!
The advantages of having a veteran point guard to mentor Dante Exum should outweigh anything they could have added with the No. 12 pick. Of course, Julius Erving was a twelfth pick in 1972, but I digress. Lindsey recognized the need to win now, the Jazz needed shooting and perimeter defense and Hill is known to provide both.
But, is he really a good defender?
Let’s look at how Hill has done against the opposition’s star point guards.
Against Western Conference Point Guards
The sample size obviously is small because with Hill having played in the Eastern Conference, but here goes..
The MVP point guard, Stephen Curry, shot 46 percent from the field and just 20 percent from three when defended by Hill. Needless to say, these are well below Curry’s high standards. Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, shot 41 percent from the field, which was below his season average of 45 percent.
However, cross-conference match-ups in a single season do not provide sufficient data to derive causation. So, we take our analysis to East Coast.
Against Eastern Conference Point Guards
Kyle Lowry had a rough go of it against Hill in both the regular season and playoffs. Against Indiana in the regular season, Lowry shot 42 percent from the field with Hill defending, while he torched Indiana at 60 percent clip without Hill on the floor.
Similarly, another big guard, Reggie Jackson, struggled at 42 percent against Hill, compared to a 60 percent clip against the Pacers when Hill was on the bench. The best point guard in the East, Kyrie Irving, shot a decent 49 percent with Hill on the floor. Again, those numbers pale in comparison to another 60 percent mark with Hill on the bench.
In the case of John Wall, things shake out differently. Wall had some good games against Hill and the Pacers. While it’s easy to brush that off as an outlier, should we be concerned that this is a trend with Hill against faster point guards?
In my estimation, Hill’s strong defensive numbers against Westbrook should erase this doubt. And Hill is only going to see Wall twice next season, unless Jazz and Wizards meet in the NBA Finals, in which case, I’d be more than happy to be wrong.
Hill does tend to give space beyond the three-point line, which cannot happen against sharpshooting Western Conference guards like Curry and Damian Lillard. However, the numbers do confirm the notion that Hill is an underrated defender at his position, with strong performances against some of the best point guards in the league.
He provides the defensive presence on the guard line that the Jazz were sorely lacking with Exum out last season.
George Hill isn’t Batman. He isn’t even Robin. (Editor’s Note: Nightwing? Barbara Gordon maybe?)
However, the Jazz don’t need a Batman or Robin. They need someone who can speak up about the importance of a game and the importance of each possession during crunch time. And they’ll listen to someone who has been to playoffs seven times and was very close to getting to the Finals.
Hill knows how to win in the league; hopefully this is something he can teach his new, younger teammates with the Jazz.
On a footnote, as long as Jazz do not ask him to finish in the mid-range, he is also going to make jazz offense better. He shot over 40 percent from three-point land and a healthy 62 percent at the rim.