Everybody knows about LeBron James’ greatness. Everybody knows the kind of second option Kevin Love can be. Everybody knows that Kyle Korver is one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history. Everybody knows that when JR Smith is hot, he can carry a team (and plays much better defensively). Everybody the kind of hustle and toughness Tristan Thompson brings whether he’s starting or comes off the bench. Everybody knows about Jeff Green’s versatility.
The list goes on and on. But what everybody may not know, is just how important a healthy George Hill is for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Cavs struggled in seven games against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs when Hill was trying to fight through back spasms, forcing him to three games in the series.
Fast forward to the sweep over the Toronto Raptors and the starting point guard was not only healthy but was a legitimate threat on both ends of the floor for Cleveland. Whether it was using his size to disrupt the offense or his aggressiveness and efficiency to dominate offensively, Hill was a huge asset to the wine and gold, especially during the four-game sweep.
Against the Raptors, he averaged 10.3 points, three assists, and 1.8 rebounds while knocking down 53 percent from the field and 33 percent from long distance in almost 32 minutes a game. But it’s not just his scoring and efficiency, it’s the fact that the Cavs have a legitimate point guard in their starting lineup as well.
If fans or opponents haven’t taken notice, head coach Tyronn Lue sure has. His efficient scoring isn’t the only thing that has helped the Cavs. As the primary ball handler when he’s in the game, he takes the burden off James and even Smith or anyone else that was forced to bring the ball up the court at times.
“I think G-Hill is a big part of what we’re doing and what we do,” he said following Monday’s sweep over Toronto, according to Fear The Sword’s Ashley Bastock. “When he got hurt in the Indiana series missing three and a half games, it really hurt us.
“I think when he went out, you didn’t want Kyle (Korver) or J.R. (Smith) bringing it up, so Bron had to bring it up and do a lot more. So with G-Hill out there and feeling 100 percent it really helps us out offensively. So that allows J.R. and Kyle to get to their spots and be able to knock down open shots.”
Even while nursing back spasms in four of the eight games that he has played in this postseason, Hill still has the fourth-highest field goal percentage for the Cavs, behind only Larry Nance Jr. (71 percent), Thompson (64), and James (55). He still needs to find his shot from beyond the arc, but if he can remain a consistent scorer and maintain the efficiency that he has shown so far, he’s a weapon for the Cavaliers, one that many teams may put on the backburner while preparing for all the shooters that Cleveland has.
He seems like a quiet guy, but the 32-year-old knows when to speak up when it is needed. He knows how to be a leader at times and realizes the kind of player he must be in order for the Cavs to have the most success.
“Just being aggressive coming back into the lineup,” Hill said. “Pushing the tempo, making the right plays, getting guys in their spots. Take some pressure where Bron doesn’t have to have the ball in his hands the whole time, where you can create and give him the ball later in the matchup when he has a mismatch and things like that. Just seeing what we were missing in terms of playmaking and just trying to do the best I could.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and just play,” he said. “I knew from watching film how they were going under (screens) and I was stopping and trying to create. I was talking to Bron and them about just making it a footrace. Turn the corner and get downhill and things like that, just trying to be aggressive in transition early and set the tempo.”
With his starting point guard back in the lineup, Love seems to enjoy it much better. The two seem to enjoy when they can make plays for one another, which makes it even better. Although it may not be the only factor, Love finding his groove (again) with Hill back in the starting lineup shouldn’t go unnoticed.
“For me personally, just setting a 1-5 pick-and-roll. That was something that I missed especially in the first series when he was out with his back,” Love said of Hill. “I know there’s a lot of times when Bron and I run the pick-and-roll, and they’re able to switch and we’re able to get the ball inside. But a lot of time with the 1-5 pick-and-roll in this series, (Dwane) Casey had them switching. And whether they double-teamed or they stayed put, I was able to go to work.”
Along with Love, No. 23 has also noticed how well the wine and gold have been playing with a healthy Hill back. It means something when the best player in the world compliments your game, right?
“He’s another added ball-handler, another guy with a high basketball IQ that’s been in big games,” James said. “It helps to have that out on the floor to be able to create not only for himself as he did early on in (Game 4), but just being able to create for others as well. It’s been great for us having him back after the injury.”
Hill will never be anything like Kyrie Irving, I mean, who will be, honestly? But that shouldn’t deter people from realizing how important he is to the Cavs this postseason. The veteran helped get the wine and gold over the hill while upsetting the No. 1 seed in the second round of the playoffs, and if he can remain healthy, Hill may help the Cavs make their fourth straight Finals appearance as well.