With a dire need for a reserve combo guard to replace T.J. McConnell, the Philadelphia 76ers should reunite George Hill with his former San Antonio Spurs mentor Brett Brown.
While the Philadelphia 76ers have their collective eyes firmly affixed on retaining their current starting five, there’s a very real chance that the team may enter July without an experienced backup point guard on their roster, especially if T.J. McConnell bounces to a better opportunity.
But fortunately for fans in the 215, it looks like a perfect free agent fit may have just dropped into the team’s lap.
Talk about a pre-free agency blessing.
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Now as The Athletic Insider Shams Charania pointed out in his Tweet, Milwaukee does want to retain Hill at a lower cap hit, especially if they lose either Malcolm Brogdon or Khris Middleton in free agency, but if the market for either player is particularly robust or drags a few days into July, there’s a very good chance a player like Hill could get antsy and sign elsewhere.
Elsewhere like Philadelphia.
And why not, I mean he’s already incredibly familiar with Brett Brown‘s system from their shared time in San Antonio.
For those who don’t remember the NBA in 2008, back when LeBron James was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dwyane Wade was a member of the Miami Heat, and Dirk Nowitzki was a member of the Dallas Mavericks (ok, I guess things really aren’t that different), the San Antonio Spurs selected a 22-year-old combo guard out of IUPUI by the name of George Hill 26th overall.
From there, Hill spent the better part of his rookie season under the watchful tutelage of Brett Brown, who was a newly elevated assistant coach at the time.
Though we will never know the exact relationship the duo shared over their three seasons together, it’s pretty safe to assume based on the consistent improvements of Hill’s stat line – jumping from 5.7 points in 16.5 minutes of action as a rookie to 11.6 points in 28.3 minutes of action as a ‘junior’ – that Brown worked his magic.
Hill played so well for the Spurs over his three year tenure with the club – including a 43 game ‘audition’ in the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker – that the team was able to flip him to the Indiana Pacers for the rights to Kawhi Leonard, a second-round pick, and two more players (but really just Kawhi Leonard).
From a man like Pop, that’s pretty high praise.
While Hill never established quite himself as a star in the NBA over his subsequent eight seasons, he consistently played at a high level, consistently serving as one of the best three guards regardless of whether he was playing for the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings, or Cleveland Cavaliers (both with and without LeBron James).
Sure, his regular season stats weren’t amazing – averaging 6.8 points in 20.4 minutes a night (47 games) – but once the postseason kicked off, boy did things take a turn towards a very profitable future.
After only scoring 318 points for the Bucks in 958 minutes of action, Hill went off in the playoffs to the tune of 11.5 points a game on 41.7 percent shooting from outside – scoring 173 points in 395 minutes.
Again, these numbers aren’t exactly the same as, say, Kawhi Leonard‘s, Joel Embiid‘s, or even his teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s, but they were good enough to finish fifth on his team, above soon-to-be free agents like Brook Lopez, and Nikola Mirotic.
While Hill isn’t as attractive as pretty much any of those players, he does provide value – serious value – to a team in need of a 6-foot-3 combo guard who can play either backcourt position and is equally proficient doing so coming off the bench or in the starting five.
A 3-and-D point guard, if that is, in fact, a thing, Hill has knocked down 879 3 pointers over his career, and finished out the 2018-19 season as the third best defensive point guard in the league according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus (well second if you don’t count Sixers free agent target Dewayne Dedmon).
Is he the player he once was? Nope, but Hill can still be effective filling a hybrid T.J. McConnell-Landry Shamet-role as the 76ers’ sparkplug first guard coming off the bench – a role the team desperately needs to fill if they’re going to fire on all cylinders this fall and return to the playoffs ready to do damage.
Now obviously there’s a chance some team with money to spend like the Chicago Bulls could fall in love with the last two months of his 2019 season and sign him to a big money deal as a stop-gap veteran presence, but if George Hill is serious about signing with a contender and wants to recapture some of that San Antonio love in the Eastern Conference, there are much, much worse places he could sign then with Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers.
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