Over the past few seasons, the Indiana Pacers have had one of the best defenses in the NBA, but I cannot say the same for their offenses. Each of the starters have gone through shooting slumps and the bench has been mostly inconsistent, but the main reason for the Pacers’ offensive struggles is due to their lack of a great-passing point guard. Even so, two consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in which they were eliminated by the great LeBron James’ Miami Heat is nothing to scoff at.
George Hill, the Pacers’ starting point guard, has been a part of those deep playoff runs, but he is not a major reason for them. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound 28-year-old has often struggled on both ends of the floor. Hill averaged just 3.5 assists per game during the regular season and only 3.0 per game during the playoffs last year. Even with those numbers, the Pacers were still very successful as they were the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and took the Miami Heat to 6 games in the conference finals.
If Hill could increase his assists average up to 6 or 7 per game, the Pacers may have had a better chance to make it to the NBA Finals. Almost every loss that the Pacers endured during the playoffs can be blamed on their offensive struggles, as they would often score under 20 points in a quarter. Even with playing great defense, the Pacers make it difficult to win games when they frequently struggle to score. Hill is thought of by most to be more of a combo-guard rather than a pure point guard. This could help to explain his low assist numbers, but he also fails to consistently contribute by scoring.
In my opinion, Hill is the second least-aggressive Pacer on offense in front of only backup center Ian Mahinmi. He averaged 10.3 points per game during the regular season and 12.1 points during the playoffs this past year. Those numbers are not horrible, but they must increase if he is going to average less than 4 assists per game. Hill’s lack of aggressiveness also hurt him on the defensive end of the floor.
When facing teams with talented point guards, Hill must attack the basket and look to score more so he forces his man to exert energy on defense. During the Pacers’ first round playoff matchup against the Atlanta Hawks last year, point guard Jeff Teague lit it up offensively due in part by Hill not being aggressive offensively. All-Star forward Paul George was then forced to cover Jeff Teague, which only hurts the Pacers because George has to focus more on defense while being counted on to be the top scoring option.
Hill has shown the ability to a game-changer offensively. In a home game against the Portland Trail Blazers last season, Hill scored a career high 37 points while adding 8 assists, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. The game was eventually won by the Pacers in overtime when Hill heat an incredible off-balance three-pointer late in the 4th quarter. This impressive stat-line was achieved while going against All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. I am not saying that Hill needs to consistently have games like this one (although that would be wonderful), but it shows how he can be an X-Factor for the Pacers if he is fully engaged offensively.