By Vinny @sailboatstudios
Welp. I guess the Cavaliers and Koby Altman could swing a deal given their relatively bare asset war chest. Not satisfied with their current situation in the backcourt, the Cavaliers sought to drastically improve quickly. Left out of the Kemba Walker talks for many reasons (insufficient assets and/or M.J disinterest to rebuild), the Cavaliers turned to west of Charlotte, Sacramento and the floundering Kings saddled with the regrettable $57 million contract owed to thirty-one guard George Hill. Riding the superb 2016-17 season, though only suited up for 49 games, Hill helped send the Jazz to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. An underrated statistical output during his short stint in Utah, Hill ranked 27th among guards in defensive rating (101), averaged 16.9 points, 4.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and a win shares per 48 of .182 (Damian Lillard scores .185) and a positive net rating of 8.6; 10th among players who’ve logged at least fifteen-minutes per game.
The Cavaliers are a horrendous defensive team, trotting out liabilities such as Isaiah Thomas, J.R Smith, Iman Shumpert, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon, adds up to the second-worst defensive net rating in the entire NBA (109.9) better than, Ironically, the Kings. As you can imagine, George Hill hasn’t helped the Kings’ avoid such a distinction. Coming into the season missing action due to a toe injury, Hill’s regression is dramatic. Falling from one of the best defenders at his position to 217th (112.9), below Jamal Crawford and Devin Booker. While doing research on George Hill I found it wasn’t all bad news, in the fourteen games considered “clutch” situations on http://NBA.com, Hill posted an impressive ORtg (123.3), DRtg (93.7) and Net rating (29.6) in 2.9 MPG. So it’s possible the good George Hill hasn’t left us at all. Certainly that’s what the Cavaliers are gambling on.
While Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert aren’t considered assets, both past the prime of their respective careers, they provided salary flotsam that helped facilitate this deal and now that they are off the books the Cavaliers have elected to take on even more money, one that’s harder to get off as Hill’s contract doesn’t get any team-friendly in the coming seasons:
Sure, the gentle decline in cash owed helps but by how much for a team already hamstrung by the albatrosses of J.R Smith, Tristan Thompson, and are starring at paying a thirty-year old, under six foot point guard $100-plus million in free agency this July? Ask GM Altman if any of this matters he’d probably so “no.” Given the circumstances all that matter is this time now, damn the future, maximize the present any way you can.
In the forty-three games Hill’s played in Sacramento he’s averaged 10.3 points on 46.9% shooting, 45.3% on threes (out of 128 attempts), 2.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 14.1 P.E.R, a 14 TOV% and a negative 12.6 net rating. There’s glimmers of hope, despite the discouraging stat-line. Hill averages 1.00 points per possession in isolation; 1.37 on spot-up attempt and 1.33 on handoffs. He can still be a lethal shooter, hitting 67.7 eFG% on spot-up, 69 eFG% on handoffs and 64.3 eFG% on cuts.
It isn’t difficult to fit Hill into any system, quite frankly. He’s a decent off-ball player, good enough you can strategically place him at either corner three spot and it wouldn’t hurt you (last three seasons Hill shot 48.1% on corner three attempts). This move effectively puts Isaiah Thomas in a reserve role, a reduction in minutes is probably for the best as he cannot maintain production for the length of time he managed in Boston. Last fifteen games saw Thomas play overused and relied on to be the MVP candidate of season’s past. He no longer has that speed off the dribble and relies heavily on getting fouls. The step, the hop isn’t there. The fact is Thomas isn’t that player anymore, but the Cavaliers seriously can’t consider starting Jose Calderon in the playoffs or ride LeBron the rest of the way and risk burning him out.
Hill is also a better option to guard Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry than the aforementioned parade of poor defensive guards.
Overall the Cavaliers felt they had to do something. Anything. The disaster on the court is a product of mostly poor effort, but the personnel doesn’t leave much desired since the ceilings are so low. Age isn’t the team’s friend either. The Cavaliers average age was thirty-one years old, now they’re younger with recent transactions that dumped Thomas, Rose, Wade and brought in Hood, Nance and Clarkson. While Hill isn’t a spring chicken he’s a better option than the status quo to help Cleveland escape the East without succumbing to the charging Raptors or Celtics.