Last offseason was really the Spring of Dennis Lindsey. Through a series of trades and a big free agency signing, the bench that was so often bemoaned by Jazz fans through last year’s injury-plagued season was remedied. The result was a roster 1-15 that was projected to be able to compete with just about any other team in the NBA. The highly touted additions were George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw. Now that we’re through just over 10% of the season, let’s check in on just how big these three have been for Utah so far.
There’s no two ways around it: George Hill has been playing at an all-star level through the first two weeks of the season. Before his injury which has kept him out of the last two contests, Hill was named Western Conference Player of the Week. Dennis Lindsey managing to acquire Hill for just the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft is, I believe, going to be the inspiration for the next installment of the Ocean’s heist movie series.
In 34 minutes per game, Hill is averaging 20.4 points on 54% from the field, including 43% from 3 on 5.3 shots per game. He’s getting to the line semi-often with 3.4 attempts per game, shooting 87.5% from there. This all adds up to a 62% effective field goal percentage which would be far and away a career high. His assist to turnover ratio is a stellar 5:1. Oh, and he’s also been a crucial part of Utah’s defense. Hill’s got a net rating of 7.4. We’ve still only seen one game with both Hill and Hayward in the lineup, but if we can get them both healthy, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
In a (hardly) stunning turn of events, Johnson has been the only addition of the three to play in every game so far this year. The fact that Joe Johnson, a seven-time all-star, willingly signed on to come to Salt Lake City over the offseason still feels somewhat like a fever dream we will all awaken from at any moment. The fact that he came here knowing he most likely would be coming off the bench is something else entirely. When the news came down that Gordon Hayward would be missing the start of the season with a broken finger, I was relatively calm. I knew that Johnson, while aging and perhaps slowing down, could step into Hayward’s spot on this short-term basis and perform admirably. Boy, was I right about that one.
He’s cooled down a bit since Hayward’s return, but in G’s absence, Johnson was all we could have asked for. He nearly single-handedly kept us in the season opener in Portland. He’s shooting 53.8% from beyond the arc, which seems sustainable (it’s not). He’s averaging 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 28 minutes per game and has a net rating of 11.5. If Johnson can get back to the production he was having in the starting lineup, he could be a legitimate candidate in the sixth man of the year discussion.
If any of the new additions could be considered a minor disappointment so far this season, it’s been Diaw. However, let’s keep a few things in mind: First, he hasn’t played much with that leg contusion. When a player is surrounded by an entirely new team it’s reasonable to expect a little time to mesh, and with Diaw only appearing in three games thus far, he hasn’t had that chance. Second, we still have yet to see him in the role he was brought here to play. His appearances coincided with Derrick Favors’ absences and as a result Diaw was thrown into a starting role. Third, the sample size we’re talking here is three games. The numbers aren’t even worth looking at, trust me. I’ll save you all the trouble of pouring bleach into your eyes from his horrific small sample size numbers. Suffice it to say, it would be impossible for him to keep playing that poorly.
We’ve gotten a lot from the additions so far this season. In my opinion, without Hill and Johnson, our 5-4 record would easily be 2-7.