The NBA Draft is a day away, but the Utah Jazz can already count themselves among the winners.
In a big, sneaky good move, general manager Dennis Lindsey and company helped broker a three-team trade with the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers. Utah sent the #12 pick to the Hawks, Atlanta jettisoned rumored Jazz target Jeff Teague to the Pacers and Indiana shipped combo guard George Hill to the Jazz. On the surface, this is a trade that makes a good deal of sense for all three franchises.
That said, it makes the most sense for Utah. Almost perfect sense. Going into the off-season, most — media and fans alike — felt this team needed to address the following areas: health, depth/increased overall talent, shooting, perimeter defense and veteran leadership. In acquiring George Hill, the Jazz are off to a very good start.
On paper, Hill appears to be the ideal fit for a team hungry to not only make it back to the Playoffs, but also to take the next step. What does the cagey veteran bring to the Jazz table? In short, a lot.
First, he brings great size to the back court. At 6-3, 190 lbs, Hill can match up well with the more physical guards. With a 6-9 wingspan, his length allows him to hold his own against taller opponents. After struggling a bit defensively with shorter players Raul Neto and Trey Burke, the Jazz have successfully addressed this by bringing on Hill and Shelvin Mack, guys whose size help tremendously.
Second, Hill is a winner, having been a key player for both the San Antonio Spurs and the Pacers. During his eight-year career, his teams have gone 395-244 (.618), including four 50-win squads1. He has 75 postseason games under his belt, more than the collective total of his new Utah teammates. He was part of a few deep runs — interestingly enough with the Pacers and not the Spurs. He has been in pressure situations and has performed. While the first step for the Jazz is simply to make it to the Playoffs, having a battle-tested guy will certainly help. Hill is a pro’s pro.
Third, Hill brings versatility to head coach Quin Snyder’s roster. In an NBA where guys being able to succeed at multiple positions has never been more important, Hill will add to that element for Utah. He is comfortable facilitating an offense, but can also excel playing off the ball. This provides much-needed depth, something the Jazz lacked last season when confronted by injuries. The Jazz wings are all flexible enough to play together. Snyder loves facilitators, and he only helps that cause. Hill has been both a starter (especially the past four campaigns) and a reserve. This could subtly be important, depending on how Dante Exum comes back from his year away.
As far as his on-court abilities, Hill is a classic two-way player. Offensively, he is an efficient player who makes good decisions with the ball. He operates smoothly within the team’s offensive constructs and does not force shots. Hill can score in a variety of ways. For his career, nearly a quarter of his attempts have been at the basket, where he finishes at a 64.3 percent clip. There were three seasons when he was 67 percent or better. Being able to break down the offense and drive can really help a Jazz offense that occasionally bogged down. He is also a solid perimeter shooter, with career marks of 41.3 percent from 10-16 feet out and 37.2 percent on long twos.
Hill is a very good 3-point shooter, as demonstrated by his 40.8 percent success last season. He was particularly potent from the corners, going 44.5 percent (with nearly 38 percent of his trey attempts coming from those spots). With the injuries Indiana endured, defenses were more honed in on Hill. In Utah, if healthy, he may find more open looks. Having another guy who can consistently hit from the perimeter is huge.
Defensively, he adds a lot. Along with his aforementioned physical attributes, Hill has good lateral quickness and does a good job staying in front of his man. He does not gamble much. Bringing another plus defender on the perimeter only enhances a defense already anchored by Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Exum.
In February, the Jazz’s point guard situation was dire. In four short months, they have brought on Mack and Hill and are welcoming back a healthy Exum. What was once a crippling disadvantage could quickly swing toward being a big advantage for Utah.
Hill contract is a very friendly $8.0 million this season and, while the Jazz probably would have liked a guy not on an expiring pact, based on reports from the Salt Lake Tribune’s Tony Jones, the hope from his camp is that he will be in Utah for a while. Bringing him aboard is an excellent way of using some of the team’s available cap space.
Lindsey and Snyder’s familiarity with Hill should also not be underestimated.
There are still many questions that the Jazz must now address. In David Kahn fashion, they all of sudden have a plethora of point guards. With five on the roster, something will have to give. The writing on the wall for Burke was there, but now, it is much clearer. Chances are, he has played his last game as a Jazzman. Mack’s deal is so good — a team option of $2.4 million — his returning seems like a no-brainer, especially for a guy who averaged 12.7 PPG, 5.3 APG and 3.8 RPG in Utah. He would be a stellar third point guard who could do more when needed. At a minimum, he would be a nice asset. The Jazz also appear to be high on Neto, who is only on the books for a total of $1.9 million the next two seasons. Because their deals are so economical, it would not be too outlandish to keep four point guards, with Neto getting some good burn with the Salt Lake City Stars.
All in all, Wednesday was a big day for the Jazz. From this writer’s perspective, there have been a few trades that just seemed like perfectly scripted moves. The Jeff Hornacek and Kyle Korver deals come to mind. The 2016 trade for George Hill has that same feeling.