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George Hill and the trap of player projections

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A look at how we evaluate player performance and motivations

Kimani Okearah

Yesterday we talked extensively about what's happening with George Hill this season. To say he's been a disappointment to Sacramento Kings fans is an understatement. As the Kings highest paid player, we expected more. Hill was projected to be the Kings best player. But should we have expected that?

Last season Hill averaged 19.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. This season he's averaging 12.5, 3.3, and 4.0, respectively. But if we look back one more year, to Hill's last season with the Indiana Pacers, it looks a lot like this year; 12.8 points, 3.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds.

With the exception of last season in Utah and 2014-15 in Indiana, most years of Hill's career look like this year. His 2PT% is a little lower, his 3PT% is higher. But this year is much closer to Hill's career per minute averages. Much of Hill's perceived lower effectiveness, it seems, is based on Hill playing fewer minutes, our hope that he would continue playing like he did last season in a career outlier, and Hill's body language.

Hill has appeared frustrated. He's appeared unhappy. And so we did another kind of projection. We projected motives onto Hill. Kings fans have done it, we at StR have done it, and the national media has done it. But it's all because we're trying to explain Hill performing at a lower level than we projected.

Yesterday Hill spoke with the media, and pretty quickly dismissed the idea that this has been a frustrating season. He says he knew what he was getting into when he signed here. And he mentioned some off-court concerns.

We know Hill missed one game for undisclosed personal reasons. Hill's comments indicate that there's still off-court concerns weighing on him. It's none of our business, but it certainly could explain the body language we've seen.

We projected Hill to be more productive this season, but the fault may have been with our expectations. We believed Hill to be miserable and wanting out of Sacramento, but it's worth considering that the problem once again lies with us.