As many times as I have screamed to people that the Indiana Pacers are the most complete basketball team the NBA has witnessed in years, there is one huge criticism to that notion.
George Hill, starting point guard for Indiana, doesn’t exactly fit the traditional style of “point guard” that the basketball world is used to. In fact, after spending time at multiple Pacers’ practices and talking with fellow media members, it has become known that Hill dislikes attaching that term to his game and play style. Hill wants to be known for what he has grown up being; a quality guard that can be more versatile than just a point guard.
But the question is often raised: Does this hinder the Pacers’ success?
Last season was Hill’s best in his six-year career, three of those being played under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Hill averaged 14.2 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.3 percent from the field. Right away when Hill arrived in Indiana before the 2011-12 season, he wasn’t expected to become the next Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook. However, there was belief that the amount of time he spent with three-time champion Tony Parker would help him thrive as another team’s starter.
Hill has done exactly that, fitting perfectly well within Frank Vogel’s offense and being extremely active on the defensive end of the floor with his long arms disrupting opposing guards. With one true superstar finally breaking out in Paul George and a top two center in Roy Hibbert, does Indiana necessarily need Hill to be a highly prolific point guard that we know Rajon Rondo to be in the East?
There are two important ways to look at this issue.
First, and most importantly, is the experience and camaraderie that Hill brings to the Pacers. It should not be forgotten, George Hill was born in Indianapolis and attended college at IUPUI in the heart of the city. The organization chose him over Spurs’ wingman Kawhi Leonard and are happy to have someone they call a “hometown hero.” Hill had his time under the most disciplined offensive system in the world (San Antonio) and nobody should claim he doesn’t have the experience.
This season, Hill is shooting 39.1 percent from beyond the 3-point line, ranking him 13th in 3-point efficiency among point guards. In that perspective, Hill is the perfect “point guard” for the Pacers. This season (more than last), Indiana is delivering the ball into Hibbert and the frontcourt, and the 7’2″ center is playing very sound offense. Of course, Hibbert has his bad nights and occasionally gets in foul trouble, but what dishing the ball to Hibbert is doing this year, is drawing double teams. Hibbert has become smart enough to pass out of the double team and find the open shooters.
What does this do for the offense?
This season, the Pacers have a large number of guys that can shoot the deep ball, and George Hill is in that category. If he was a type of guard that relied strictly on passing and lacked shooting skills (Rondo, Rubio), Indiana would lose one it’s most valuable threats. Especially at home, where they are nearly unbeatable and shoot 37.2 percent from 3-point range.
There has to be a reason we keep mentioning Rajon Rondo.
Earlier in the year, it became a thought that the Pacers could look to add an All-Star caliber point guard, specifically Rondo himself. On the other side of arguing Hill is a great fit, there is the fact that Indiana isn’t a great team with ball movement.
The Pacers rank just 19th in assists per game (20.7), with that number dropping steadily as Paul George realizes he’s good enough to isolate when needed. Hill, the starting point guard, has had his fair share of games this season where he doesn’t move the ball effectively, turns it over in the halfcourt offense and stagnates everything for Indiana early in games.
If arguing for George Hill not being the best option, the case of bringing in a point guard with Rondo’s passing abilities would most likely take this team to new wonders.
Hill, averaging just 3.8 assists per game this year, isn’t the play making guard that has the same mindset that we see from the top floor generals in the game. Typically, the point guard is supposed be an extension of the head coach on the court. I think it’s safe to say we haven’t attached Hill’s name to that reputation just yet.
The Pacers’ offense isn’t top tier quality by the numbers, sitting at just 20th in the league at 98.2 points per contest. You have to wonder how many more open looks a more athletic, fast and pass-first point guard would create for Lance Stephenson, Luis Scola and even the returning Danny Granger. Granger has never played with a top five point guard, he’s always had to create his own looks. In all honesty, the Pacers could be even better than they sit right now if they had a natural point guard.
At the end of the day, no change at point guard is needed, or wanted, for the Pacers to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. They are more comfortable playing team basketball and would surely vote to keep their group intact. After all, they were built, not bought (as Roy Hibbert would say), and they’ve proven Hill can do an adequate job while taking Indiana to seven games against the Heat.
We’re already certain Indiana can reach the Finals, so maybe Hill is the answer at point guard for now.