George Hill, the Thunder’s 34-year-old guard, wound up in Oklahoma City this offseason in a four-team deal that sent Steven Adams to New Orleans for a return of George Hill, Darius Miller, a protected 2023 1st, and two second round picks. Many were unsure about his role on the team, as his age (34) and contract ( 2yr. 19.5M) do not align with the Thunder’s young, frugal-spending approach.
Through five games in the regular season, George Hill has been a shocker to most, averaging 15.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 4 assists in just 25 minutes per game (note: Hill has only played in four of these games.) The most remarkable stat for Hill however has been his shooting percentages of 56% across the board, and 45% from deep.
Hill’s last performance against the Orlando Magic has encapsuled all of the good qualities he has shown in all of his outings, posting splits of 18/1/5 on 7-12 shooting.
Let’s break down the tape:
Note: It is recommended to pause each individual clip after viewing to prevent lag!
George Hill led the league in 3pt% last season with the Milwaukee Bucks, shooting a remarkable 46% on three attempts per game. This seems to be no fluke as he has been a sniper from long-range thus far with the Thunder, shooting at a 45% clip on five attempts a game.
Let’s take a look at some of the shots that have given him such an accolade:
This is a great play concept from the start, so credit needs to be dished out to all parties involved in this play. To kick this play off, Al Horford fakes the high screen to Shae Gilgeous-Alexander, Nikola Vucevic completely bits on the screen and leaves the middle of the lane completely open. SGA immediately makes the correct read passing it down to Horford, and with Vucevic out of this play the closest Magic defender, Dwyane Bacon, had to switch down onto Big-Al leaving his man George Hill wide open for the three- that’s going in 10 times out of 10.
This play once again shows Al Horford manning the ball in the middle. This buys time for George Hill to set a beautiful pindown screen in the corner for Lu Dort. Terrance Ross immediately tries to go over this screen, but it really out to be a decoy as Dort ends up cutting inside as opposed to going to the wing. Dort forces a Ross-Fultz switch and Ross looks to have made a mental error, trying to go back down on Dort instead of defending Hill. Ross makes a step or two to the inside giving Hill plenty of space to get his shot off from the catch. That space made for an easy three ball for Hill.
This play is a bit of a misfit when you put it next to the previous two shooting plays. For starters, Hill is the primary ball-handler in this play, and two he’s taking this shot in the mid-range.
Regardless, this is a beauty of a play that consisted of nothing more than a simple high ball screen. Vucevic camped down low on this play with the intention of forcing a Horford three, but it backfired with Hill having a wide open 19-foot pullup.
You may at this as an extremely niche category, and that’s because it 100% is. One of George Hill’s biggest strengths that is hardly known about comes from his dominance when cutting to the basket.
This play is a perfect example for the all-encompassing game Hill has cutting in. The tandem of SGA and Hill bait Michael Carter-Williams into playing the passing lane and giving distance to Hill. SGA smartly drives in on his left side to go right into MCW, in hopes he tries to go and help. Right as MCW plants his feet and looks to be trying to help, Hill’s guns to the rim, and his quick burst of acceleration puts him inside before Carter-Williams can even turn around. SGA smartly dumps to him on the cut and with nobody inside, their was nothing the Magic could do (except goaltend.)
This play is a simple 5-on-4 fastbreak due to Markelle Fultz trying to tinker with his shoe on the other end of the floor. This defensive lapse from the Magic really should not be taken at face value as the team was at a disadvantage, but with Hill, you by all means should.
Hill does his best Mike Muscala impression on the fastbreak, trying to hide in the play before striking after the defense materializes. Once Hill sees that Magic guard Dwyane Bacon was stuck on his man at the wing, he dashed in again for the easy two.
Hill has been a career 3.2 in assists, and things he has not lost a beat his twelfth year.
A very well drawn up Horford-George high ball screen forced a switch due to Vucevic not stepping anywhere close to where he should’ve. Hill takes the ball right in on Vucevic and pulls him outside, sneaking his way out to the right corner. In doing this, the forgotten Horford-Fultz matchup got abused to it’s fullest, as Horford got himself in position down low and nailed the inside shot.
This play exploits Fultz and Vucevic yet again. Hill lingers down the court until he gets to the baseline, catching Fultz off guard and out of position. Vucevic sees this problem brewing and tries to help his teammate out but he forgot about Horford, who canned it from deep.
Hill’s role in the passing game started off on the first possession of the game! An Al Horford screen up top got Vucevic to play up on Horford, leaving the paint open. The second step of getting this bucket came off the second screen from Bazley. Magic forward Aaron Gordon switched onto Hill, and with Bazley driving in on a much smaller Carter-Williams it was all over.
This is about as vague of a category you can get but there is one play in particular that fits this description perfectly.
This play may have just been the best of the night for Hill. Though it doesn’t appear like much on the stat sheet, these are the kind of plays that make coaches rave about you. There was zero reason for George to dart up the court so fast being the play was a 2-on-2 in the fastbreak without Hill. But he seized the opportunity to take the ball, and he never looked back. Hill put his best Usain Bolt imitation on full display going from zero to one hundred in a blink of the eye. Carter-Williams knew exactly where Hill is on the floor as he is sprinting up, even glancing back at him when he crosses the half-court line, but it looked like he knew this Hill steal was inevitable. MCW brought the ball to his right hand, and once exposed, it look no time for Hill to knock it loose.
George Hill has kept things professional ever since arriving in Oklahoma City, and has taken every chance he gets to help out the younger guys to refine their game. Next time you watch a Thunder game, make sure to look at Hill on the sidelines, because chances our he’s helping out one of our guys. My favorite teaching moment of Hill’s came during a preseason game, where he is shown helping Aleksej Pokusevski on his shot. This has been one of countless times Hill has been eager to teach.
George Hill has been everything we could have asked in our starting shooting guard this year. He can play as the one being the ball-handler and passer, and his shooting efforts make him a guy defenses simply can’t take their eyes off of. To put the cherry on top of all of this the hustle and drive he puts into the game show, and one can only hope he can instill those kind of values into the young up-and-comers.
To listen to George Hill’s player breakdown, in addition to the Thunder-Heat game preview, make sure to tune into Monday’s rendition of the Thundersticks Podcast.
Thunder-Heat Game Preview 0:00-13:28
George Hill Player Breakdown 13:28-32:20