When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for George Hill at the February trade deadline, the franchise thought they finally addressed their point guard situation after Kyrie Irving‘s departure in the summer.
Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose weren’t good fits next to LeBron James. Thomas was never able to find his rhythm after returning from his hip injury, while Rose’s ankle ailment he suffered in the second game of the year forced him to miss a bevy of games and the Cavs ultimately decided to move on from the former MVP after he took a leave of absence.
Hill signed a lucrative three-year, $57 million free agent deal with the Sacramento Kings during the 2017 offseason. Upon signing with the Kings, Hill was told that Sacramento would be contending for the playoffs in 2017-18.
The Kings’ philosophy, however, shifted after the team got off to a rough start. Hill and some of the other veteran players were rounded up early in the year and told the vision had shifted, that the front office wasn’t interested in winning and was more focused on acquiring a top-five draft pick instead.
Not surprisingly, Hill wasn’t happy about the decision and went on the trade block once he was eligible to be moved.
The Cavs acquired Hill on February 8 from the Kings as part of a three-team trade, sending Rose and Jae Crowder to the Utah Jazz and Iman Shumpert to the Kings.
In the 24 regular-season games he appeared in with Cleveland, Hill averaged 9.4 points and 2.8 assists while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from three. For the advanced stat lovers out there, the Cavs had an offensive rating of 121.3 when Hill was on the court and 111.4 when he was on the bench.
Hill spoke on many occasions about how he was trying to find his place with the Cavs, even when the playoffs started. It was evident watching Hill that he was having trouble adjusting to playing with a great player like James, who often dominates the ball for the Cavs, which forced Hill to be more of an off-ball player and spot-up shooter.
During the Cavs’ Eastern Conference postseason run, Hill posted 9.7 points per game and shot just 25.7 percent from beyond the arc. He missed three games due to a back ailment as well.
In the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Hill’s production and numbers dipped. In the four-game sweep, Hill averaged a mere 7.5 points. His matchup, Stephen Curry, averaged 24.3 points.
The Cavs clearly missed Irving’s elite scoring and playmaking skills during the Finals. The offensive burden placed on James was too big even for his broad shoulders. Cleveland just didn’t have anyone besides James who could create a shot off the dribble or get to the rim at will.
Hill, 32, is due $19 million next season. If the Cavs end up keeping him, he has to play better than he did this year. In today’s NBA, your starting point guard has to be able to score, put pressure and make the opponent’s point guard work on defense.
There were too many times during the Finals when Curry was guarding Hill where Hill wasn’t being aggressive looking for his shot, letting Curry, a subpar defender, off the hook.
During one of his Finals press conferences, James spoke about how the Cavs were lacking playmakers and that he missed his pal, Dwyane Wade.
A case could be made both Wade and Rose would have helped James and the Cavs in the Finals.
While they only played in five postseason games with their respective teams, both Rose and Wade were highly efficient off the bench. For the Miami Heat, Wade averaged 16.6 points and 3.6 assists and shot 44.3 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from three. Rose, meanwhile, playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaged 14.2 points and 2.6 assists, shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 70 percent from three.
If James doesn’t return to the Cavs, expect Cleveland to embark on a rebuild and try to trade Kevin Love and Hill. Paying Hill that much money on a team without James just doesn’t make basketball or financial sense.