Report: Brooklyn Nets Making Plans to Sign George Hill, Can Utah Jazz Retain Him?

Mar 13, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) dribbles the ball up the court against the LA Clippers during the fourth quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah Jazz won the game 114-108. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) dribbles the ball up the court against the LA Clippers during the fourth quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah Jazz won the game 114-108. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

The key piece for the Utah Jazz all season has been George Hill. He’s played the best basketball of his career and by all accounts loves Utah. But what happens when other teams offer max money?

This season has been a huge step forward for the perpetually rebuilding Jazz. Last season with the revolving door of well below average point guard play led Utah to a 40 win season and short of the playoffs.

This season, the best way to put it is to quote ESPN’s Tim MacMahon from the TrueHoop Podcast from Tuesday, “Man, when George Hill plays well, the Jazz are a really, really, good team.”

Man, when George Hill plays well, the Jazz are a really, really, good team.

George Hill is so important to the success the Jazz have had so far that besides Gordon Hayward, Hill is their biggest issue in free agency. As I wrote about a couple weeks ago after they failed to agree to an extension, Hill is looking for a long term big deal. 

Also in the TrueHoop Podcast, McMahon reiterated that:

"Hill is looking for “big, big, big money”…  His people think in this market, He can get max. They think he can get 4 for $132 (million). I think that’s awfully optimistic, but can he get more than $88 (Million, the max Utah could offer in an extension)? And really can he get that 4th year commitment? And is that, say, in the Jazz’s best interest to go that 4th year for him. These are all things they need to figure out this summer, but for the Jazz there is no question they go as George Hill goes. They are a basically .500 team without him. (Instead) they are 17 games above .500 and sitting in the 4 seed so you can figure that out…”"

Utah isn’t really in a position to be able to offer Hill that kind of money for the length of deal that Hill is asking for. They have Gordon Hayward to pay, Rodney Hood, Trey Lyles, and Dante Exum to extend, and Joe Ingles is playing himself into an Evan Turner-like contract next year himself.

Hill likes it in Utah. He also likes winning. He has spoken very highly of the front office, and most recently in The Undefeated article about adjusting to Salt Lake City as a black basketball player had the following to say:

"“The fans are phenomenal,” said Hill. “They’ve embraced me with open arms and act like I’ve been here for 10 years when I’ve only been here for a couple of months. That has been a great blessing for me.”"

Utah will do everything short of crippling the franchise in order to keep Hill, because Utah does not get free agents. It’s just the truth. Joe Johnson is the best free agent to sign in Utah since Carlos Boozer because most NBA players have the same opinion of SLC as Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins and Derek Harper.

From the same Marc Spears article from The Undefeated:

"Dominique Wilkins was actually drafted by the then-cash strapped Jazz with the second overall pick in 1982, but didn’t want to come to Salt Lake City. The Hall of Famer was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for John Drew, Freeman Williams and $1 million and became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and biggest star.Twenty years ago, Dallas Mavericks guard Derek Harper also turned down a chance to be traded to the Jazz team that went to the 1997 NBA Finals.“There was a Utah deal, but you go live in Utah,” he told ESPN. “Nothing against Utah or their team, but I don’t want to live there.”"

Given the choice between playing on the best team in the West and competing against Michael Jordan, Harper chose a 24-58 Dallas Mavericks team before he would dare move to Utah.

McMahon brings up the interesting point about Hill in the Podcast. If you were Utah, would you pay a monster four-year deal for Hill, or bring back Deron Williams for cheap for another year while Exum develops? He states Deron “desperately” wants to finish his career in Utah and George Hill is apparently living in one of his two houses he keeps in SLC.

The biggest factor for any team proposing a four-year deal for Hill is his age. There haven’t been many 34 to 35-year-old point guards who are playing at an All-Star level and are worth $20 million and up. Bleacher Report recently wrote about the most likely recession candidates and George Hill was named as one of them.

"“It’s difficult to expect George to sustain career bests in scoring and effective field-goal percentage.Chief among the reasons why is the uncertainty that surrounds where Hill will play next season. He and the Jazz couldn’t agree on an extension, and if he winds up someplace other than Utah, it’s reasonable to expect the fit will be worse.Toss in that Hill will enter his age-31 season, as well as his troublesome injury history (he’s missed 27 games already this season, and he played only 43 in 2014-15), and more signs point to a productivity dip.We are watching the best possible version of George Hill this season, so a decline is the only reasonable expectation.”"

George Hill will have many suitors, including San Antonio who drafted Hill and Hill has deep ties to the organization. However given the dollar amount Hill is asking for I would believe San Antonio is in the same boat as Utah. They have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge already on max contracts and a third max deal for a 31-year-old isn’t something San Antonio is known to do.

The really messy part is brought up by Brian Windhorst, again via TrueHoop:

"“Let me tell you what the executives are talking about. George Hill recently changed agencies. I won’t get into the intricacies of this, but last year a player, Allen Crabbe, changed agencies right before free agency and the next thing you know is he had a gigantic offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets. The same agency represents Tyler Johnson in Miami, he got a huge offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets. So there is a belief the Brooklyn Nets have an interest in going there.Even if George Hill doesn’t want to play for Brooklyn, that the Nets could make the offer is what is the dangerous part for the Jazz of the Spurs because they can drive the price up……Anywhere the Nets smell the possibility of not getting their offer matched, they’re so desperate to bring in talent, they prefer young talent. But they’re going to be a player in that market. They need all kinds of guards.”"

Windy, when asked who George Hill was represented by, stated “I don’t want to talk about that.” This all sounds very inside baseball and for anyone who still believes tampering doesn’t happen in the NBA is fooling themselves.

I recommend listening to the Pod yourselves. The TrueHoop Podcast is really smart and usually entertaining.

Ultimately this is an interesting development in what should be nothing but excitement for Jazz fans. After a slow burning rebuild and reaching the four-seed in the west, fans have to hear about free agency every time they turn around.

Things could be worse, the team could stink.

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But they don’t. Coming off of probably the most important win of the year, morale is high. And if Utah does well enough in April, maybe that helps keep contract discussions reasonable.

Whatever the case, the Jazz are in for some big decisions. Good players get paid lots of money. And Utah has quite a few of them now.