November 4, 2017, 1:25 pm
George Hill’s signing last July sparked almost every reaction imaginable from fans and observers around the league. Many were excited about his talent and ability to mentor the team’s young players while others were concerned about his injury history and the fact that he would likely be taking minutes in an already-crowded backcourt.
The only universal reaction seemed to be surprise. The signing seemed to come out of nowhere, and the Kings are rarely a consideration for players of Hill’s caliber, especially when they’re expected to be near the bottom of the Western Conference for the next few seasons.
Even for the most skeptical Kings fans, positives could be taken from this – their team was being opportunistic and flexible in a way that they hadn’t been in quite some time.
The signing was still a tough one to evaluate. Minutes would already be tough to distribute in the team’s backcourt, and while Hill had played big roles with various playoff teams, he didn’t fit the mentor role as well as one would hope.
Bringing back a player like Darren Collison would’ve been a more appropriate fit for the team from a mentorship perspective. His familiarity with head coach Dave Joerger would’ve been a huge plus, and the team wouldn’t have had too much trouble moving him to a bench role when De’Aaron Fox was ready to take over.
Not only this, but the team would’ve saved plenty of cap space by signing a player like Collison. It’s not exactly a certainty that Collison would have accepted a deal knowing that Sacramento were looking to develop Fox, but there was likely a similar point guard out there available.
For this reason, the signing almost feels like it was predicting failure – if the team has Hill on the roster for anything more than a full season, then he will be taking major development time away from one of the team’s young guards.
The only way that the minutes distribute easily in this scenario is if someone either struggles or gets injured. We’ve seen to this point in the season that both Malachi Richardson and Frank Mason have been squeezed out of the backcourt rotation, and that’s after the struggles of Buddy Hield and George Hill.
From this perspective, the signing appears to be more trouble than it’s worth. The optics were certainly good, but with Fox and Mason showing that they can probably handle the bulk of the minutes at point guard, Hill overcrowding an already deep pool of players less than ten games into his Kings tenure.
With that said, the signing cannot truly be evaluated until later this season. Hill will be eligible for a trade this December, and plenty of competitive teams could use a guard with his combination of playmaking, shooting and defense.
The value in paying a player like Hill instead of a cheaper option is evident in this scenario. If the Kings can add an asset for Hill while also opening up minutes to the team’s younger players, this signing could be a massive success.
Hill’s market is difficult to gauge at this point, but his contract isn’t too tough for a team in the right situation to justify, and his ability to play both guard spots opens up possibilities in trades.
The Kings didn’t need to know how or if they were going to trade Hill when they made the choice to sign him. Nobody knew how ready Bogdan Bogdanovic would be after playing a long summer in Europe, and the learning curve for Fox and Mason hasn’t proved to be too large to justify letting them take over the point guard spot.
The Kings should have been prepared for this possibility from the beginning though. If, as stated above, the team was showing flexibility by signing Hill, then they need to strongly consider their options as the December 15 trade deadline approaches. Beyond minutes distribution, Hill hasn’t looked like a great fit for this roster either. Dave Joerger’s system takes the ball out of his hands, and the team doesn’t have the right mix of ball handlers to properly utilize him off the ball.
The Hill move was risky but it showed that the Kings were trying to acquire assets under a plan orchestrated by the tandem of Vlade Divac and now departed Scott Perry. Perry may be gone, but the team needs to continue to be opportunistic if they plan to re-establish themselves as a force in the Western Conference.