Hill Gives the Jazz An Interesting Year

June 23rd, 2016 | by Dan Clayton
Teammates (AP/Rick Bowmer)

Teammates (AP/Rick Bowmer)

365 days.

That’s what the Utah Jazz acquired on Wednesday, at the modest cost of a mid-first round pick: an extra year of relevance. George Hill is a Jazz player1, and as a result, the Jazz get twelve months’ worth of a really solid NBA starting point guard, and a 12-month boost in their team-building timeline.

And here’s why it matters:



Teams are coming hard for Gordon Hayward. For now, the Jazz have the ability to send those suitors packing, but next summer they won’t. If teams are willing to give up lottery picks and nice young players like Bledsoe2 to get Hayward this week, they’ll be coming at the Butler product with open checkbooks next summer, and all the Jazz can do at that point is make their own offer and hope their best player is bought into the program.

The Jazz need to be good now. Not cute good. Not “on the rise” good. They need to be good, and they can’t wait 365 more days, or it might be too late to convince Hayward that he’s part of a project that’s headed somewhere.

Enter Hill.

Sure, the former Pacers guard only has a year left on his contract, but that’s a big year for the Jazz, who for the past couple of years have ranked at or near the very bottom of the league in point guard production. Now they get a solid starting PG — #10 last year by Win Shares, #17 by RPM — who can help the healing Dante Exum ease back in after missing an entire season to ACL rehabilitation.

Your faithful SCH columnist is a big-time Exum believer, but the Australian guard wasn’t likely going to be ready for 30+ nightly minutes in October anyway. Hill gives Exum the luxury of progressing back on his own timetable and not feeling the pressure of an NBA calendar bearing down on him. He is also someone who, at 6’3″ with solid shooting and above-average defense, can share the court with X Like Xenopus.

In fact, Hill is a really nice fit for the Jazz stylistically, probably moreso than Jeff Teague3. Hill can create, but is also comfortable as an off-ball threat: he shot a hair under 45% on catch-and-shoot threes. He will also mesh well with Utah’s defensive identity. He’s big, strong, and smart in terms of team roles, but he is also a good individual defender. Of 76 players who guarded at least 200 plays where the possession was used4 by the P&R handler, Hill held his guys to the 13th lowest PPP.

He’s a willing passer who doesn’t need the ball to stick to have an impact. After a 22-point outing in Game 4 of this spring’s series with Toronto, Hill told the media, ““It’s not really about me. I’m just here trying to do my job. [Playing with the pass] gives everybody the opportunity. Wherever the ball lands, guys gotta be aggressive and be shot-ready on the weak side.” Sounds a lot like Quin Snyder’s mentality. Play with the pass was erstwhile Pacers coach Frank Vogel’s whole mantra, so Hill should fit in just fine in a Jazz system that values movement, quick decisions and a democratic approach to shot allocation.

Hill also lends instant legitimacy to Utah’s backcourt. He has appeared in 75 playoff games, more than twice the combined total of all of the other players currently under contract for 2016-175.

But David Smith’s piece from yesterday has more on Hill’s basketball fit, so let’s shift back to that extra year of relevance.

The Jazz won 40 games last year, but their point differential indicates that — even with all the injuries — they play at the level of a 46-win team. Dennis Lindsey made it clear in April that he’s treating that 46 number as their baseline going forward, which means he’s holding himself accountable to improving on that number. When you add back in all the games missed to injury, you certainly recoup an extra handful of wins on top of that, which means that even before this trade, a case could be made that Utah was not far from 50-win territory. They have to solve some late-game woes and they need to keep everybody healthy, but they were in that ballpark.

Whatever that baseline is, they just added a player who has consistently been a 5-8 Win Share contributor for the last seven seasons, including two in which he primarily came off the bench for the Spurs. This move absolutely gives Utah permission to dream about cracking 50 — and they probably aren’t done yet with roster moves.

Utah still likely needs a little more depth at the wing and on the frontline, but they also have plenty of room to chase what they need in free agency or via trade.

The Jazz's cap sheet going into Thursday's NBA Draft.

The Jazz’s cap sheet going into Thursday’s NBA Draft.

It’s widely presumed that the Jazz will continue to try and find a trade for Trey Burke, who fell from the rotation last season. Even if that happens, Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto leave the Jazz with four point guards. Mack was better after a midseason trade brought him to Utah, but his salary is fully non-guaranteed by July 7. That makes it easier for Utah to cut ties, either via waiver or trade. If they decide they preferred Mack, it’s not like they couldn’t afford to swallow Neto’s guaranteed $938K, or find a taker somewhere. It’s also not out of the question that they could keep both and plan on playing small more often.

As for Hill, his camp is talking as though this fit makes sense beyond the 365 days in question, too, which presents some interesting questions. Utah has come difficult math coming in a couple of seasons, but just as importantly, they have to ask themselves at what point they envision Exum being ready to take his presumed spot as the point guard of the future. If that’s a year from now, then Hill’s short-term contract makes perfect sense, although a lottery pick is a bit steep a price for just one year. Should Utah decide that Exum needs a longer runway — or that Hill is an ideal backup to the Aussie guard — it sounds like they’ll have a chance to keep him.

On an open market, Hill could easily command starter money, which in this new cap environment is $15 million or so annually, and a bidding war could easily drive that price higher. Utah will need to decide whether they want to pay that much to someone who might project as the long-term backup, but they certainly have some time to weigh that out.

Hill is eligible for a contract extension, but because the limits on extend-and-trades are tighter than typical veteran extensions, the receiving team is limited in terms of the extension they can offer until six months after a trade. Either way, the extension would start well below Hill’s expected market range. Some have suggested a renegotiate-and-extend, similar to what we’ve talked about for Derrick Favors. But it’s unclear if that’s permissible under NBA rules6.

However’s Hill’s longer-term future in Utah pans out, the Jazz got what they needed for now: a significant upgrade at PG, a potentially happier Hayward, and 365 extra days of being good.


Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton


  1. cw says:

    I like Hill, but I don’t like the win a few playoff games now to reassure Hayward direction. I would prefer to trade hayward now while his market id high and win more a couple years later.

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  3. Diggin' It says:

    Winning 10 more games than last year is super hard for any team, especially from 40-50. But it won’t be for the Jazz. There plus-minus says they were a 46 win team last year despite all the injuries, and if they were totally healthy with Exum, I think they could’ve been better than Portland.

    Add George Hill to the equation, and next year will be a playoff run, and more than just an 8 or 7 seed. Hayward will want to stay if the Jazz make a good run from the 6th seed and push a contending team to a 6 game series.

    The west won’t be as mediocre as last year, it will be deep with 40-50 win teams. Minnesota and New Orleans will join the other FIVE bubble-playoff teams from last year. Utah will have to play with a chip on their shoulder that they are a tier above New Orleans, Minnesota, Portland. But they can do it if they show that #1 defense again all year, with more depth and better injury luck.

  4. rvalens2 says:

    I liked the George Hill trade as soon as it was announced. He’s going to “wow” Utah Jazz fans with his play this upcoming season.

    I believe George Hill is going to have a very good season with the Jazz. So much so, that long before the 2016-17 season ends, Jazz fans will be hollering they want him back, and I think Hill will oblige them by signing a new contract. He’s a great fit for the Utah Jazz.

  5. Ryan McElmurry says:

    You said the Jazz point differential shows they really had the ability of a 46 win team…EXCEPT that they SET a RECORD for the luckiest team EVER!! They ended up winning 11 games off the points from buzzer beaters from all quarters,when 4.5 is normal, so that right there puts them at a 34 or 35 win talent team without that hailmary luck that won’t happen two years in row. And then aside from that, they won another 5 games they had no business whatsoever winning(aside from regular odds that you Do normally win a couple you shoukdnt) but incredible luck went their way again- I’m talking games like being down 4 to Indiana with less than 20 seconds and Indiana has the ball, so Utah has to foul to maked it almost certainly at least a 5 point game, so no chance right? But then Indiana throws it away, a foul is called on the Jazz make, and Indiana throws it away again. The Jazz make it again, and Indiana misses a FT. So the nearly impossible happens. Or for instance, Chicago has them beat on a Derrick Rose 3 to put them up 4 with 11 seconds, but then Jimmy Butler goes down, after holding Hayward to 11 points in the whole game, he was so dominant defensively, but due to the injury, Hayward is able to run right by him, he MISSES, so normally the game would be over right there, but Hayward grabs his own rebound due to the injury and Butler fouls him, when he wouldn’t have had to catch up normally. Next play, the Bulls step out of bounds. Then Hayward runs by Butler again to make it go to OT, and then in OT he literally runs past him four more times in a row. Then Butler goes out for 11 games straight he was hurt so bad…a few games later Beal goes down ONLY for Utah and Denver. The media kept whining that Jazz injuries hurt their record, when in reality while Favors and Gobert were out, they lost ONE more game than their % the rest of the time, yet their opponents’ stars got hurt Only for Utah games at an incredible rate. The Jazz Benefitted unbelievably by way of injury- they weren’t Hurt by it. And Exum going down helped them immensely! The Jazz scored 15 points below NBA average offensively per 100 possessions while he was on the court his rookie year, and he gave up another 4 more than average defensively(despite the Utah media pretending his D was good, so it was the only thing not ridiculously terrible). Had he been healthy, he would’ve cost them ten wins,even with improvement in his second year, and all you heard all year was how his injury cost the Jazz more wins- not that he was 19 points below average per 100 possessions, so he was the worst player in the league to have on the court. The Jazz were Extremely LUCKY to get 40 wins, rather than 30, when accounting for +6 they Should’ve won by having a better point differential than normal for 40 wins, but -16 other wins due to that other crap and record luck and injuries to opponents and to their own completely horrible player, so he couldn’t ruin it. Not the other way around.

    • Lance says:

      You can’t possibly think that the Jazz last year were closer in talent to the Suns (23-59) than the Blazers (44-38).

  6. LKA says:

    You could go thru each teams season and say they were each lucky or not. Maybe if the Warriors had not pushed so hard to get the best regular season record they would have bee more rested. Warriors could have slamed the door shut but the when Green was susspended for the fifth game the Cavs creeked in. Do you really think they had the best team?? How about the Thunder being up three games to one then blowing it? How about two teams blowing a three games to one in this years playoffs. Luck and no luck is why we play the games.

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