After a magical start to the season that saw George Hill quickly become a fan favorite, he had a drop off due to injuries that raises doubt on whether he deserves the near max-contract he was reportedly seeking.
The Utah Jazz have already entered one of the most pivotal offseasons in franchise history. With Gordon Hayward expected to decline his player option for 2017-18, he will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, and if he chooses to play elsewhere there is nothing the Utah Jazz can do about it.
The two other important free agents for the Utah Jazz are Joe Ingles and George Hill, two unselfish guys who mesh in Quin Snyder’s system perfectly and fit great alongside Gordon Hayward. While Joe Ingles has already made Utah his first priority, there are still questions as to whether George Hill will leave the Jazz after just one season.
Even though it was an up and down season for Hill individually, the Jazz stayed solid as a rock thanks to good coaching and depth, and as a result had their most successful season since 2010. Despite an onslaught of injuries for Hill, he averaged 16.9 points per game (a career high), shot an efficient 47.7 percent from the field and over 40 percent from the three, and posted top five marks on the team for win shares, VORP (value over replacement player), Box Plus-Minus, True Shooting percentage, PER (player efficiency rating) and assist percentage.
Furthermore, when you look at games where both Hayward and Hill played, the Jazz won 14 out of the first 15 of those such games, went 24-8 in the first 32, and 30-13 for the whole season (the equivalent of a 57-win season). Judging from the eye test, it’s obvious that Hayward and Hill play well together. They both have the ability to score on or off the ball and play tough defense. I think that the acquisition of Hill was a big reason of why Gordon Hayward was able to elevate his play to an All-Star level this year.
However, Hill also only appeared in 49 games this season, and his longest string of consecutive games played was 16, from January 7th to February 8th. Between spraining his thumb, getting a concussion and lip laceration thanks to an elbow from Alex Len, and a nagging sprained toe injury, Hill fell back down to earth after his hot start to the season.
And then when the deadline for contract extensions came up, it was reported by ESPN’s Tim McMahon that Hill was seeking a max or near max contract. Hill and the Jazz failed to agree on a long-term extension, and all of a sudden Jazz fans weren’t as fond of Hill as they once were.
Hill was once considered the best offseason addition to the Utah Jazz, and the Jazz were considered by far the biggest winners of the three-team trade involving Taurean Prince and Jeff Teague. Now many within Jazz Nation have been desiring to sign Deron Williams or Milos Teodosic and turn the keys over to Dante Exum, or go for the big fish like Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry in free agency.
Even Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey didn’t sound positive that Hill will be back next season, in an interview with KSL beat writer Andy Larsen, Lindsey had this to say on Hill:
"“He’s a terrific guy, he’s one of my pride and joys. I told him, if he gets a crazy offer somewhere else, and we helped him get that offer, you’re not going to get one poor thought, much less word, if he goes elsewhere,” Lindsey said of Hill. “And then there’s a very good chance that we’re each other’s best option come July.”"
While it would be sad for Hill to go (even Hill himself considers Gordon Hayward his little brother), there’s no denying that he did the Jazz an incredible service by helping them not only get back to the playoffs, but make it as a fifth seed and escape the first round of the daunting Western Conference. Hill was a good mentor for Dante Exum and gave him a soft landing and low expectations coming off a lost year due to an ACL tear.
Hill was the calm veteran on the court who was no stranger to close intense games, and passed on that experience to guys who had never been in the playoffs before, such as Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles and Trey Lyles. Even Hayward and Favors were able to glean some valuable knowledge from Hill, as they have technically been to the playoffs for a short four game run back in 2011.
More from The J-Notes
- With the FIBA World Cup over for Simone Fontecchio, it’s clear he deserves minutes for the Utah Jazz
- Best, Worst and Most likely scenarios for the Utah Jazz this season
- Hoops Hype downplays the significance of the Utah Jazz’s valuable assets
- 3 Utah Jazz players who have the most to gain or lose this season
- Former Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gay is a free agent still and it shouldn’t surprise anyone
As for me, I would love to see Hill’s dribble moves in the pocket, his midrange game, deft floaters and timely passes back in Salt Lake City next year. If the price is right and if he doesn’t interfere with Dante Exum’s development timeline, I see no better fit on an NBA team than the Utah Jazz.