You probably think Utah Jazz point guard George Hill, a 30-year-old vet with a career scoring average of 11.3 points per game, is boring.
You probably think he’s not a difference-maker. That he’s a fungible good, a stopgap option that won’t hurt, won’t help and could be exchanged for a dozen other blah alternatives without measurable effect.
You probably think—and this is the least forgivable misconception out there—the Indiana Pacers upgraded by swapping him for Jeff Teague.
If you think any of these things, it’s my firm belief that you, sir or madam, are a big, silly dumb idiotface. I apologize for the profanity, and I hate to make this personal. But this is important, and personal attacks are good attention-getters.
Let’s start macro: The Jazz are on everyone’s breakout short list. They’re the up-and-comer most likely to vault from a missed playoff trip to the fringes of legitimate contention. They’re poised to be the team so many unreasonably optimistic NBA observers want the Minnesota Timberwolves to be.
A lot goes into that. Utah’s defense, anchored by Rudy Gobert, will absolutely be its greatest strength. Finishing outside the top five on that end of the floor would equally surprise and disappoint. There’s depth here, too: Dante Exum is back, Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson are on board, Trey Lyles could become Ryan Anderson…not to mention established stars Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward.
And then there’s Hill, who’s so much more than a piece of that depth. In a general sense, this guy does everything you want a point guard to do (short of dominate in the pick-and-roll) in the modern game. His reliable shooting, excellent decision-making and straight-up mean backcourt defense would help any team. much more than a piece of that depth. In a general sense, this guy does everything you want.
In fact, those skills have helped; every single season Hill spent with the Pacers saw him post a positive on-court net rating. Most of those clubs were good, but two were below .500.
Regardless of the scenario, Hill made his team better.
The Jazz, specifically, (and this is the micro part) haven’t had someone like him at the point in a while.
For almost three decades, the Jazz were a team defined by steady, top-end, bet-the-house-on-it point guard play. John Stockton was an almost comically reliable mainstay; dude logged 19 seasons, made the playoffs in all of them, and played 17 of those campaigns without missing a single game. Deron Williams slid into the void a couple of years after Stockton hung up his form-fitting shorts, and the Jazz were, again, anchored by a stud at the 1.
Once Williams was shipped out in the middle of the 2010-11 season, the position and the team slipped into disarray. The Jazz became a shapeless, confusing middle-of-the-packer. Without a trustworthy lead ball-handler, things just fell apart.
Now, the Jazz have what they’ve been missing in Hill. And as they embark on a season with higher expectations than any since the Williams era, it’s critical to recognize this is not a coincidence. It’s not like Hill is on the roster and the Jazz just happen to be on the precipice of a 50-win campaign. Rather, they’re on the precipice because Hill stabilizes a position of recent chaos and desperate need.
Consider: Hill is the seventh different opening-night starting point guard in Utah’s last seven seasons. The list of luminaries, in reverse chronological order, goes like this: Raul Neto, Trey Burke, John Lucas III, Mo Williams, Devin Harris and Williams.
No, Hill won’t be around for Stockton’s 19 seasons—or even D-Will’s five and a half. Exum is the guy Utah must rely on for long-term concerns like that. What Hill will do, though, is impart a sense of calm and capability the point guard position has lacked. He’s instant stability—the right guy for the right team at the right time.
And again, just using terms like calm and capable make it seem like Hill is boring. Remember when I called you an idiotface for thinking that? First: I’m still sorry. But second, and more importantly, it doesn’t even really matter if you think drilled standstill threes and versatile backcourt defense (Hill’s fortes) are boring.
Those are the things that lead to wins. And they’re the things the Jazz haven’t gotten from Hill’s position for years.
So when Hill leads Utah on a surge toward one of the top four spots in the West, tell me again how dull he is.
George Hill is here, he is not boring, and he’s going to restore order in the Utah Jazz universe one crisp ball rotation, drilled catch-and-shoot trey and serpentine-armed defensive stop at a time.