Utah Jazz: Is the writing on the wall for George Hill?

Mar 27, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) dribbles the ball during the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 108-100. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) dribbles the ball during the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 108-100. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

The Utah Jazz are reportedly looking to trade for a veteran point guard. With that and other recent developments, could the writing be on the wall that the team isn’t planning on a George Hill return?

It didn’t take long for draft night to get exciting for the Utah Jazz as after just twelve picks were made, Dennis Lindsey and Co. made a bit of a splash by trading up to select Donovan Mitchell at number 13. For the most part, this was a well-received move and it will be exciting to see how the Louisville combo guard develops with the Jazz.

However, to the surprise of some, the Jazz didn’t make any earth-shattering moves on draft day that involved them receiving anything other than being able to move up in the draft. Leading up to Thursday’s big event, there had been several rumors about the Jazz pursuing the likes of the Houston Rockets’ Patrick Beverley and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio, but nothing came to fruition on those fronts – at least not yet.

And those rumors seemed all the more likely when on draft night, per the Salt Lake Tribune’s Tony Jones, Dennis Lindsey himself even said that the team was still searching for a trade for a veteran point guard. Given that George Hill is currently an unrestricted free agent – one that many hoped would be retained by the Jazz this offseason – it’s a bit interesting to hear that Utah is potentially looking to deal for other point guards around the league.

In fact, if Utah is indeed that determined to find a veteran point guard, it might mean that the writing is on the wall that the Jazz aren’t counting on George Hill returning, whether it be because the Jazz don’t believe they can pay him, Hill’s simply looking for a different opportunity or something else entirely.

There’s certainly an argument to be had that this could be the case. First of all, if Beverley and Rubio were true targets for the Jazz, it’s somewhat difficult to see them coming off the bench after being starters for most of their careers. That doesn’t absolutely mean that the Jazz wouldn’t aim to retain Hill, but it does seem somewhat suspicious to say the least.

Furthermore, it’s been brought up multiple times that perhaps in the Jazz’s attempt to keep Gordon Hayward and lure additional talent to Utah, George Hill’s expected pay raise would put him outside of the team’s budget for next season. There were also significant injury concerns with Hill as he missed 33 games last season as well as the final three playoff contests.

However, while these viewpoints could cause one to suppose that Hill is on his way out, there are also a number of reasons and reports that would seem to point towards the fact that he could very well make a return. First and foremost among those is that the Jazz were clearly high on Hill when they brought him in, he seemed to fit in well with the organization on all accounts and it doesn’t seem like Dennis Lindsey would see trading for him as a one-year rental as the best use of him if it were at all avoidable.

Also, on the day following the draft, Tony Jones made it pretty clear that a Hill return to Utah was still very much a real possibility, even if a guy like Beverley (who’s on a very friendly contract, by the way) is brought in, as long as “the logistics are right.” Jones also mentioned that Lindsey is “looking forward to meeting with George Hill” which would seem to further indicate that there’s optimism and hope for a return there as well.

In other words, Lindsey’s search for a veteran point guard could be more an attempt to replace someone like Shelvin Mack who is an unrestricted free agent that will likely be let go, or simply to add more security at the position in case of injuries. Not to mention, as much as many Jazz fans would love to see Exum be able to take a bigger role (myself included), Lindsey and Coach Snyder might feel comfortable having another vet to help fill that backup spot for the time being.

Furthermore, Exum and/or a potential newly acquired point guard may very well be able to play both the one and the two. And especially if one of Alec Burks or Rodney Hood was shipped out to make that or another trade happen (such as for a power forward), then even with newly acquired draft pick Donovan Mitchell, the Utah Jazz would still be in some need of wing depth which Exum, Hill and the trade-acquired point guard could all help solidify.

Therefore, the apparent mutual interest that seems to still exist between Lindsey and Hill combined with the fact that the Jazz still have legitimate reasons to add another point guard would make it seem very reasonable that George could indeed be staying.

Beyond that, one of the major reasons that many assumed Hill was on his way out was so that he could net a huge pay raise with a team that was willing to throw big money his way. However, three teams with plenty of spending power and that had a major need for a point guard – the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves, all of which had been connected to George Hill – now no longer appear to be in the market for him.

The 76ers traded for the number one overall pick in the draft to add Markelle Fultz who surely will be the point guard of their future. The Nets engaged in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers to bring D’Angelo Russell into their mix – another potential franchise point guard if he can reach his potential. Finally, though they didn’t bring in a point guard, after landing Jimmy Butler in a stunning draft day trade, it appears now that the Wolves could very much be set on keeping Ricky Rubio.

I suppose that doesn’t necessarily slam the door shut on Hill joining any of those teams, but it certainly results in them making a whole lot less sense and not being nearly as appealing for Hill who without a doubt is a starting-caliber point guard.

Therefore, while Utah’s pursuit of a veteran point guard may have led many to suppose that the writing was on the wall for George Hill and that the Jazz were prepping to move on from him, that may very well prove to not be the case. Deciding Hill’s fate was never going to be an easy decision – neither for himself nor for the Jazz – and depending how everything continues to shake out leading up to free agency, it may get even harder.

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I truly believe that the Jazz would like to retain him, but as Tony Jones mentioned, it will likely all come down to the logistics. And the moves that Utah does or doesn’t make in the coming days may very well define just what those “logistics” are and whether or not keeping Hill in Utah will actually be a possibility.