The 2021 NBA trade deadline was nothing short of exciting. We saw a flurry of moves, with a mix of those we did and did not expect. Kyle Lowry, who most Sixers fans had at the top of their trade deadline wish list, ended up surprisingly staying put in Toronto. However, the Sixers did acquire George Hill from the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder to satisfy their need of a veteran point guard.
Hill has been labeled in the past as a perfect fit for the Sixers. He’s a capable scorer, shooter, playmaker, and defender. While some in Philly may feel underwhelmed about the transactions made, the Sixers quietly made a good move in regards to Hill. The first aspect we have to look at is his ability to produce on the court. After all, that’s largely the reason the Sixers shipped out four second-round draft picks for him, right?
On the Court:
The great news is George Hill is a seamless fit with the Sixers. For the past two-to-three years, he’s been someone that has been on the radar for most fans as a productive player who would thrive in Philadelphia. The skill most people will point out will be Hill’s 3-point shooting, which has aged like a fine wine throughout his career — averaging 38.4 percent from behind the arc through 13 seasons in the NBA.
His career percentage doesn’t fully do him justice for how good of a shooter he is, though. Hill has played a more limited role as his career has progressed, leading to even better efficiency. Back in 2018-19 with the Milwaukee Bucks, he even led the NBA in 3-point percentage, shooting a scorching 46 percent.
While most will point to Hill playing with a dominant playmaker in Giannis Antetokounmpo as a result of his impressive shooting percentages in Milwaukee, it would be simply selling him short. He’s a flat-out talented shooter and he showed that in his limited time with the OKC Thunder, registering a second-best career true shooting percentage at 63 percent — an impressive feat as their roster is filled with a lot of young and developing talent.
George Hill has also managed to develop into a quality perimeter defender throughout his NBA career. He has been a huge factor in a lot of defensive juggernauts — ranging from the San Antonio Spurs dynasty, to Paul George’s Pacers, to the Milwaukee Bucks in recent years.
George Hill uses his 6-foot-9 wingspan to his advantage, and has fared well individually against some of the Eastern Conference’s premiere guards. One example of George Hill’s stellar defense would be in his matchups against Kemba Walker back in the 2019-20 season. Hill managed to hold Walker to a 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent shooting from 3 while defending him on the season.
While Hill, who is now 34 years old, won’t get younger by any means, his game seems to be aging well on both ends of the floor. He’s a savvy veteran that knows how to be in the right spot and plays within his role.
Many of the before-mentioned teams heavily featured Hill in closing lineups in their postseason runs. Hill gives the Sixers another viable option on both ends of the floor that they can bring off the bench and/or close a game with. There’s been some concern that Seth Curry may be a defensive liability in the postseason. Hill greatly limits that concern as he can hold his own in most cases on the defensive end of the floor.
The area where I personally think Hill will have the most impact is in regards to the Sixers’ sixth man, Shake Milton. Shake, who is in the midst of a mostly positive “sophomore” season, has been a good scorer off the bench for the Sixers. He has excelled and grown in many different areas. However, we’ve seen his 3-point jump shot slip from his prior season.
I speculate that this has to do with what the Sixers have asked of him. He’s been the go-to scoring option with the bench unit. Coach Doc Rivers has favored all-bench lineups this season, and Shake has been the primary catalyst for both making shots and setting up his teammates — two things that are bound to take a physical toll on him. The bench lineup’s offense is primarily Shake Milton creating shots and Dwight Howard offensive putbacks. Jump shots are all about legs, and this could likely be the reason he’s shooting a lackluster 30 percent from 3 on the season.
George Hill will immediately take a lot of pressure off of Shake Milton. Hill is a capable ball handler and playmaker that is used to running an offense. This move likely means Shake will play more off the ball at shooting guard, which I believe will be more of a natural fit for him. He’ll have more opportunities to catch and shoot as well, which was an area he was very successful in last season. I expect Hill to be a big factor in Shake Milton’s efficiency getting back to the levels we’ve previously seen.
The Sixers’ future with Hill:
As our own Tom West detailed, the Sixers were thinking about moves that benefit the team now and going beyond this season. George Hill’s play and contract are the epitome of this direction. We’ve seen Daryl Morey opt for players of both good fit and under good contractual obligations since he has arrived in Philadelphia. Seth Curry is yet another example of this line of thinking.
Morey even spoke a bit about this approach in media availability after the trade deadline:
“We took an option that we thought really upgraded our team this year on both ends, and at the same time kept all of our optionality alive in the future… If George Hill becomes the integral part of this team we think he will, we have the option to keep him and not have him go to free agency. We also kept all our important assets to upgrade the team going forward, so we really felt good about this option. It allows us to really upgrade the team for the playoff wars to come, and at the same time keep all our our bullets if an option in the future becomes available.”
The Sixers did an excellent job at saving a lot of their assets with this move. While four second-round picks isn’t insignificant, it also isn’t a first-round draft selection either. Doing this deal didn’t jeopardize the Sixers’ future flexibility by any means, as they still have a decent amount of draft compensation to use in deals in the foreseeable future.
George Hill also has one of the better contracts in the NBA. He has two years left on his deal coming in at $9,590,602 for this year and $10,047,297 for the 2021-22 season. The real benefit towards Hill’s contract is that the final year of his deal is only partially guaranteed. To be more specific, Hill would “only” be owed $1,275,491 if he is waived on or before June 30, 2021.
This makes Hill’s contract very flexible for the Sixers. They don’t have to worry about him leaving this summer in free agency for nothing and they also wouldn’t be stuck with dead/negative salary in the event that Hill doesn’t work out for whatever reason. Contracts like these can be useful in trades, as they are an easy way to match money. They’re extremely beneficial for teams receiving any unwanted salary in return. Summarizing it all: A team could dish out a salary around $10 million and have to pay $1.2 million instead if it received Hill’s contract in return.
Contracts like these are invaluable, especially In a time where the league’s economy isn’t the best and NBA teams aren’t gaining a normal level of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. There could very likely be a NBA team out there that would value a salary-shedding transaction that Hill’s contract could provide.
Going forward, the Sixers have put themselves in a great position for this season and the ones yet to come. George Hill is a great under-the-radar addition to an already great team in the NBA. Daryl Morey and the Sixers’ front office deserves credit for walking a fine line of improving the roster now without jeopardizing the Sixers’ future.