It feels that the Cavaliers, in a lot of ways, traded for the idea of George Hill much more than they traded for the reality.
The idea of George Hill was a pterodactyl-wingspanned secondary ball-handler that could hit threes at a high level and provide point-of-attack defense not seen for a Cavaliers point guard since Eric Snow (yikes).
The reality of Hill wasn’t that far off, but it was a big enough gap for his half-season Cavaliers tenure to register as a slight disappointment.
Hill has turned himself into one of the better spot-up shooters from three in the NBA, but his stroke didn’t come with him from Sacramento to Cleveland. After shooting 45 percent from three with the Kings, he dropped all the way down to 35.1 in 23 games in the regular season. In the playoffs, those numbers collapsed even further to 31.4 percent.
He wasn’t able to shoot particularly well on pull-ups or off catch-and-shoots in the postseason, and hit 33 percent of his shots when he was set up and 31.6 off the bounce. A back injury may have affected this, but it’s not like his jumper was particularly strong when he joined the team in the first place.
His percentages in Sacramento were unsustainable - he was taking literally exclusively open, and mostly wide open threes.
Even so, his percentages from three with the Cavaliers would have been the lowest since his rookie year. It stands to reason that those numbers should rise with an offseason of recovery and a little more comfort within Tyronn Lue’s system. If the whole roster doesn’t flip, that is.
Defensively, Hill was good, and helped corral guards in the pick and roll, but he didn’t have the transformational defensive effect that you might hope for in the regular season. After the trade deadline, the Cavaliers allowed 108.9 points per 100 possessions with Hill on the floor. With Hill off the court? They allowed 108.8.
The playoff numbers were functionally the same. That’s not to say he wasn’t doing a good job on defense, and he was obviously and upgrade on Isaiah Thomas and Jose Calderon. Ultimately, though, you’d hope for a two-to-three point jump in defensive rating that just wasn’t found.
If George Hill was solid for the Cavaliers, he certainly wasn’t worth $20 million dollars per season. That number drops to $19 million next season, and the final year of his deal is only guaranteed for $1 million, which makes a contract that looks like an albatross potentially be a valuable trade chip by the middle of next season.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, Hill is really their only option at the point guard spot moving forward. Jordan Clarkson was an unmitigated disaster over the course of the Playoffs, and Jose Calderon could call it quits as soon as this summer. It’s not going to be easy to move Hill for an asset unless the Cavaliers find somebody in the draft or in a trade that can man the starting point guard spot in the long-term.
In the meantime, the Cavaliers will be looking for additional playmaking punch in the offseason that might actually ease the burden on Hill to be an elite offensive playmaker. The team looked worlds better both in the regular season and in the playoffs when he was able to be aggressive and get into the teeth of the defense off the dribble.
That’s just not feasible to ask on a night-to-night basis for Hill, who will be turning 33 at the end of next season. Allowing him to transition into being a high-efficiency, low usage role player that still has the juice to take on tough assignments defensively would be a nice thing the Cavaliers could do for the guard.
This obviously is hard to project with LeBron’s future in limbo. The Cavaliers may flip Hill at the deadline next year independent of their depth at the position. Teams will pay big to get out of luxury tax hell, and half the league finds themselves at that position.
The Cavaliers will certainly get something out of Hill, whether’s on the court or off it.