George Hill is coming off a five-year, $40 million contract signed in 2012, which turned into a great value for an Indiana Pacers team that was the greatest Eastern Conference threat after the Boston Celtics went into contender emeritus status. After one season with the Utah Jazz in which he fit perfectly and had a career year, Hill moves on to join the Sacramento Kings on a three-year, $57 million contract.
Sacramento just had their best draft since selecting DeMarcus Cousins in 2010 and have been on a far more promising trajectory since trading him. While building around a young core, they've somewhat inexplicably decided to use their cap space on veterans.
Hill ranked 23rd in the NBA in Real Plus Minus last season, a jump from 100th in 15-16, but he only played in 49 games and was unable finish out the playoffs due to a toe injury. Hill’s age (31), injury concerns, role player status and the dearth of available starting point guard spots contributed to his depressed market.
Hill’s value comes from his defense and ability to play off the ball at the point guard position. Hill’s 22.8 assist rate ranked 31st in the NBA and decidedly on the low end amongst point guards. Hill does run the pick and roll well still but he’s limited in that role. Hill has shot better than 40 percent from three on a high attempt rate in each of the past two seasons and has been in the high thirties since his second season in the NBA. Hill’s shooting will of course age over the life of his contract better than his defense and auxiliary playmaking.
Hill is a good signing for Sacramento in terms of on-court fit since he can play beside De’Aaron Fox even though they already have a lot of depth at shooting guard, but they can more importantly keep him on a traditional rookie point guard timeline.
The opportunity cost for the Kings on Hill, as it is with Zach Randolph, comes from using their cap space in this way instead of taking on bad contracts that can come with assets attached. Sacramento has their pick this year to add to their core, but they're infamously without that 2019 selection. Hill and Randolph almost certainly won't be on the Kings' next playoff team.
The Kings did well with the veterans they chose to sign, but the logic of the strategy at this level of financial commitment only accomplishes things that are unquantifiable. The Kings essentially took the wisdom of the three-year, $24 million deal to Garrett Temple from 2016 and tripled down on it.
Grade for Kings: C+
Hill and the Jazz were unable to agree upon a renegotiation and extension in February. The Jazz were allowed to offer up to a four-year, $88.3 million deal, which computed to a three-year, $74.7 million deal plus an additional $13.6 million for 16-17. This computes to a $17.7 million miscalculation and while the market moved with several of the teams with cap space and a point guard need drafted players and the Wolves not only traded his Utah replacement in Ricky Rubio but immediately signed a point guard of their own for identical money in Jeff Teague.
Hill did well to at least find $57 million with the Kings, even if the final year is partially guaranteed, but this is a clear rebuilding situation and he’s grown accustomed to playing meaningful playoff basketball.
Grade for George Hill: C
Dave Joerger and the Kings ended the Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era by signing Randolph to a two-year, $24 million deal. When the Grizzlies were eliminated by the Spurs in a series that featured their customarily tenacious style, we knew then there was a good chance that would be the end of an era.
The Kings need to prioritize their frontcourt minutes to developing Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere, and Randolph will get at least 20 of those available 96 minutes at the two big man positions. Randolph is in clear decline but he can still score in the halfcourt, especially since more teams are playing small forwards as power forwards. Randolph doesn’t get to the line as often and is less efficient overall as you’d expect from a guy about to turn 36 with over 33,000 career minutes.
Grade for Kings: C
The stretch from 2007 until 2009 when Randolph was traded by the Blazers to the Knicks and then to the Clippers and then to the Grizzlies was troubling, but he found the perfect home with Memphis where his immense talents were correctly used and the town embraced him on a personal level.
Randolph growing into a value veteran locker room presence was completely unforeseen a decade ago, but he’s earned it and he’s also earned this contract by taking care of himself physically and remaining a productive player.
Grade for Zach Randolph: A