Has George Hill Received the Green Light for a Career Year in Utah?

Energized offense for the seasoned vet is helping him achieve a career year while also attempting to end the Jazz's four-year playoff drought.

Back in June when a three-team trade went down between the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, and Utah Jazz, the hot name of the deal seemed to be Jeff Teague, the point guard desperate to get out of Atlanta suddenly packing his bags to join Paul George in Indiana.

With almost a quarter of the season in the books, it’s George Hill and his impressive fit in Utah that has our attention, as the Jazz appear poised for a playoff berth for the first time in four years.

In simplest form, Hill’s fast start could be mostly attributed to the green light he’s seemed to receive on offense. While he’s still a strong defender, it’s his increased role on offense that’s setting up Hill for a career-best season at the age of 30.

Hill came to Utah after spending five years in Indiana under Frank Vogel on teams that were never confused for fast-paced or fire-powered. Interestingly enough, Hill’s uptick on offense has come under similar styles and circumstances, as head coach Quin Snyder runs his current Jazz squad on the premise of throwing the opposition in the mud and forcing the game into a crawling slug fest.

Think of it not necessarily as slow, but methodical. Like when Hill puts Derrick Rose on a string by never moving at a particularly high rate of speed, but instead with patience and precision before capping it all off with a Dream shake.

After averaging less than 10 shots per game over the last five seasons in Indiana, Hill is putting up 13 shots per game in 2016-17, including five treys (both career-highs), and he’s knocking them down at a career-high 53- and 45-percent rate, respectively. His 113 offensive rating combines with his prominent defensive effort to form a net rating of 14.3, supplanting his previous career-high of 8.7 in 2012-13 by, well, a lot.

It’s not just the scoring, but the efficiency at which he’s operating. Among those playing at least 30 minutes a game, Hill ranks top-five in both assist-to-turnover ratio (3.07) and effective field-goal percentage (62.3), while also ranking 12th in PER (25.3) and 15th in our nERD metric. That provides an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win with that player as one of their starters.

FGA/g FG% 3PA/g 3P% FTA/g FT% NetRtg
Last 5 Seasons (avg.) 9.9 .449 3.9 .373 2.5 .790 5.5
This Season 13.3 .534 5.2 .456 3.9 .884 14.3
% Improvement +34% +19% +33% +22% +56% +12% +160%

Unfortunately for the Jazz, injuries have already forced Hill to miss nine games, and the team has undoubtedly felt it. Utah is 3-6 without him as opposed to 8-3 when he’s running the show, further validating his value on both ends of the floor.

The most productive and potent lineups for the Jazz just so happen to contain Hill, which is far from coincidence, and you hate to call it typical, but Hill has never lacked on the defensive side of the ball. Pairing those career-high offensive numbers with the regular stronghold we’re used to seeing on defense makes for a pretty damn good point guard.

And not just any point guard. A veteran one playing in Utah within a scheme that would otherwise be considered boring, and helping that boring team legitimize as a threatening playoff squad in the Western Conference.