George Hill will forever be remembered as the guy traded for the draft selection of Kawhi Leonard. That's really too bad because Hill is a very solid NBA point guard. This year, his first with the Utah Jazz, he has been even better than that to start the season. And more importantly than Hill's individual play, his presence fills the biggest hole Utah has had recently, vaulting the franchise into the playoff discussion in 2016-17.
In his nine prior seasons in the league, Hill had been a good-but-not-great player. He never averaged more than 16 points in a season and topped 12 points just twice. He wasn't a huge assist guy either, though he kept his turnovers surprisingly low for a point guard. It helped the latter and hurt the former to play with a ball-dominant scorer like Paul George in Indiana.
Even that level of production was highly sought after in Utah, though, after the dumpster fire that was its 2015 point guard situation. With twin towers down low and exceptionally talented and intriguing wings, the only thing the Jazz were missing was a point guard. No, Trey Burke, Shelvin Mack, and Raul Neto did not adequately fill the void. In fact, they were collectively atrocious. Of all Jazz players who played in at least 25 games last year (13 in all), the three point guards ranked 9th, 11th, and 12th in points per shot. They ranked 8th, 9th, and 12th in PER. Things were bad at the point.
Not only is normal George Hill way better than that, providing Utah with a vast improvement at one of the most important positions on the court, but this year's George Hill is destroying all-comers. His shooting splits (.548/.429/.882) blow his previous career-highs out of the water; he is hitting way more threes and getting to the line more often than ever; he is still not turning the ball over despite also setting a career mark in usage rate. And Hill is Utah's number-one offensive weapon, scoring 21.4 points per game. His worst game of the year saw him pour in 18 points on 13 field-goal attempts.
Hill played against San Antonio earlier this week, the team that originally drafted him and (rightly) shipped him out for Leonard. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich maintains that the trade was good for both teams. He is right, though his team definitely got the better of the deal. Popovich also says that Hill was his favorite player at the time and shipping him off was really tough.
Hill may be becoming his new coach's favorite player as well. Quin Snyder has already spoke highly of the veteran presence Hill has brought and Snyder's ability to both communicate with and rely on Hill in all situations. The Jazz are in a much better place this year with the ball in Hill's hands, and it may carry them to a place they haven't been in five years.