Just a few days ago, the Kings signed one of their highest profile free agents in team history, inking George Hill to a three year, $57 million contract. Sacramento was rumored to be looking for a mentor to assist their lottery pick, De’Aaron Fox, and Hill should be able to fill those shoes with ease.
Early NBA Career
In the 2008 draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis star point guard, George Hill, with the 26th overall pick.
The 22 year old was acquired with the intention of backing up Tony Parker, and did so in his first year, but the Spurs starter was lost to injury for part of the 2009-2010 season which gave Hill the opportunity to prove his value in his sophomore year in the league. After averaging just 5.7 points and 1.8 assists in his rookie year, the young guard logged a stat line of 12.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 0.9 steals while starting 43 games for Gregg Popovich. Hill also began to demonstrate his versatility as his 6’9” wingspan allowed him to defend opposing shooting guards while occasionally starting next to Tony Parker.
His third year in the league again saw him coming off the bench, but his numbers stayed steady, and although he was only in the starting lineup for five games, he logged starters minutes, averaging 28 minutes per game, and was regularly featured in a two point guard lineup.
The move to Indiana
After a disappointing end to the 2011 campaign which saw the 61-win, first-seeded Spurs lose to the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in just six games, the Front Office in San Antonio decided they needed to upgrade their athleticism and size to compete with the up-and-coming teams in the league. On draft night in 2011, the Spurs sent promising backup guard George Hill to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for the 15th overall pick, Kawhi Leonard.
Gregg Popovich had this to say about trading Hill:
"The toughest [decision] in whatever, 20, whatever years I’ve been coaching here as a head coach. It’s not even close. We were scared to death sitting in the room. I think it was the 15th pick, if I remember, and when we got to 11, 12, 13. Danny Ferry, our CEO, and I were looking at each other saying, ‘Are we really going to do this?’
"[Hill] was one of my favorite players. He was important to us, but we needed to get bigger. … So in the end, we said we’re going to roll the bones and we’re going to do it, but I can’t tell that at that point we knew that Kawhi was going to be what he is today. That would be an exaggeration."
Clearly, Hill was a beloved member of the Spurs and Popovich truly struggled with the decision to move on from one of his favorite players.
In his first season with the Pacers, Hill played backup to incumbent starter Darren Collison, and continued to play behind our former point guard throughout most of the 2011-2012 year. However he began to outplay Collison towards the latter part of 2013 and ended up starting for the final nine games of the season. Possibly due to Hill’s development and readiness to lead the team, the Pacers dealt Collison to the Mavericks and converted their 2011 draft night acquisition to their full-time, starting point guard.
For the next four seasons, our new point guard started 261 of 269 possible games played and averaged 12.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while regularly harassing opposing point guards and shooting guards on the other end of the court. Indiana made the playoffs every year, outside of the 2014-2015 season, which also saw Hill miss his first significant time in his career as he was absent for almost half the season, missing 39 total games.
Promotion to Jazz Director
The day before the 2016 NBA Draft saw George Hill moving for the second time in his career. The Pacers traded Hill in a 3-team transaction which landed Hill in Utah, Jeff Teague in Indiana, and the #12 overall selection in Atlanta, who used the pick to select Taurean Prince.
His time in Utah was mildly successful as the Jazz made the playoffs, landing the fifth seed in the Western Conference, but the 29 year old struggled with injuries throughout his singular season in Salt Lake City. When he was on the court, Hill had the best offensive season of his 9 year career, averaging almost 17 points per game while also nailing 40% of his three-point attempts. Unfortunately, a myriad of injuries prevented him from making a full impact on the season as he played in only 49 of 82 regular season games, while also missing the final 3 playoff games against the Warriors.
What should we expect?
George Hill provides two key advantages for the Kings. First, he’s the best starting point guard in the past few years as he’s an upgrade over Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, and Rajon Rondo. He’s a better defender than any of our recent lead guards and can knock down long-balls at a better rate as well. He’ll be able to control the pace and rhythm of the game on the offensive end of the floor while also frustrating opposing guards on defense.
Alongside his shooting and defense, Hill’s versatility will also greatly benefit the current roster construction. De’Aaron Fox needs spacing next to him, and pairing the rookie with Hill, as well as someone on the wing like Garrett Temple, should provide the shooting that he desperately needs to be effective while also producing a solid defensive backcourt. Our secondary ball-handlers such as Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic can also play alongside Hill at the 2-spot, which will allow them to work on initiating the offense while still having a veteran outlet if they’re overwhelmed by opposing defenses or struggle to control the game.
Hill brings a wealth of experience to Sacramento as well. He’s played over 20,000 career minutes and has had the opportunity to learn from legends like Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, and Larry Bird. In his career, he’s missed the playoffs only one time in his nine years of tenure and has participated in a total of 83 postseason games.
George Hill is a guy who’s come up through the ranks, learned from Hall of Famers, while establishing himself as an above-average starter, and he’ll provide the Kings with a steady hand to guide our young core until De’Aaron Fox is ready to take the reins.