The Indiana Pacers are in a bit of a tailspin.
After starting off the month with six straight wins against a weak schedule, the Pacers have crumbled lately, losing seven of eight against much tougher opponents.
Yet, no one else in the East seems interested in running away with the eight seed, so the Pacers are very much alive in the playoff hunt. Indiana currently sits just a game behind Boston for the final playoff spot.
If Indiana is going to make a playoff run, it’ll likely be behind the continued excellence of George Hill. In a season filled with injuries, Hill has unexpectedly developed into the most important player on the team.
Hill’s on-off splits are some of the more drastic splits in the league. When Hill is on the court, the Pacers are outscoring opponents by 6.1 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference.com. With Hill on the bench, the team is being outscored by 3.2 points per 100 possessions.
While Hill has been good defensively, most of the improvement has come on the offensive end. The team has an offensive rating of 109.6 with him on the court, which would be good for seventh in the NBA, per Basketball-Reference.com. When Hill sits, the team’s offensive rating is 100.9, which is better than only Philadelphia’s anemic offense.
Hill has been the best Pacer attacking the rim this season. He’s enjoying a career-best 54 percent shooting percentage on two-point field goals, and he has been more aggressive than usual. He has been especially lethal in March, leading the team in points per game (19.1), field goal percentage (51) and assists. (5.1)
The fact that Hill has been able to up his usage and efficiency is a testament to his play and the way Frank Vogel has used him. Hill has always benefitted from being in the lineup with another ballhandler. He isn’t an especially great dribbler for a point guard, but has a quick first step and can get to the rim with a head start.
Hill’s defender is a step late getting around the screen, and Hill doesn’t hesitate in taking the ball to the rim. Once there, he uses his athleticism and length to finish amongst several defenders. There aren’t too many point guards that come off pin down screens regularly, but Hill is among the best at it.
Playing Hill with another player who can handle the ball has worked very well for Indiana this season. Rodney Stuckey has found his groove in the second half, and Vogel has paired the guards together a lot in the last couple of months. The Pacers are outscoring opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possessions with both Stuckey and Hill on the court, per Basketball-Reference.com.
Vogel has not only used Hill off the ball some with Stuckey running the offense, but has also experimented with Hill in the post against smaller defenders, like on this play:
Hill may only be 6’3, but he has an enormous wingspan of 6’9, and uses it to get his shot above smaller defenders. If Hill can continue to develop a post game, it’d be an intriguing addition to Indiana’s sets.
Hill’s versatile offensive game has given the Pacers a boost with Paul George still sidelined. If Indiana can rediscover its defense and continue to lean on its versatile point guard on offense, it just might be enough to sneak into the playoffs.