Where will George Hill fit in the Sixers’ rotation?
President of basketball operations Daryl Morey obviously has his own thoughts about that question after acquiring the 34-year-old guard, but he recognizes it’s not his call.
“My job is just to add the talent and the players and let (head coach Doc Rivers) decide what’s best, but I think he has options,” Morey said last week. “I think he can go a whole bunch of different ways and all of them should be pretty strong and hard to beat in a seven-game series.”
Rivers, meanwhile, didn’t make any final declarations.
“Probably coming off the bench, but I don’t know yet,” he said. “Listen, we’re going to get him in here and play him. We’ve got a lot of minutes we can give guys, and he’ll get some of them.”
The Sixers issued an injury update Saturday, saying Hill will resume on-court basketball activities in the coming days. He’s been sidelined since late January and had right thumb surgery on Feb. 2.
To figure out where exactly he fits, it might be tempting to examine Sixers lineups this season, considering who he might replace and where his skill set might work best. Morey, however, probably won’t be doing that.
“ … Lineup analysis is pretty terrible in general, I'll just be honest,” he said on Nov. 19. “But when you get to 1,200-minute lineups that are playing at a historically great sort of ability to build the lead … listening, it became pretty obvious the right path for the roster.”
Morey's comment was in reference to how well lineups that surrounded Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with shooting fared. In looking at five-man Sixers lineups this season, the only conclusion we can draw with much confidence is that the opening-night starters have been very good. (We think even Morey would agree on this point.) In 811 non-garbage time possessions, the Simmons-Seth Curry-Danny Green-Tobias Harris-Embiid lineup has a plus-15.1 net rating, per Cleaning the Glass.
Could Hill replace Curry in certain situations, including the end of games? Absolutely. Rivers has been willing to tweak his end-of-game lineup, using Shake Milton in Green’s place on a couple of occasions. If Curry isn’t having a great shooting night and the Sixers want to bolster their defense, Hill would be a viable option.
Overall, though, a big part of why Morey acquired Curry is he wanted his stars to play with an elite shooter again. Hill’s presence doesn’t mean the Sixers should suddenly move in a different direction and have Curry play a much higher proportion of his minutes with bench players.
Flexibility is very useful in the playoffs, and Hill’s recent history suggests he is indeed an adaptable player. According to Cleaning the Glass, he played 2,640 possessions with the 2019-20 Bucks, yet no more than 93 possessions with any single five-man lineup.
The outline of Hill’s game backs up that notion. He’s dependable defensively, can handle the ball (but doesn’t need much of it) and has made 40.2 percent of his three-point shots since the 2015-16 season.
“… It’s very important that, if you put a defender on the floor — especially with Joel and Ben — that that defender can shoot and that player can be safe with the ball,” Morey said. “George has always been extremely safe with the ball, makes the right play. I’d say, not to minimize it, defense and shooting were probably paramount. Obviously George brings a lot more than that, but those were two of the big ones.”
Rotations tend to shrink in the playoffs. Assuming Hill and Embiid are healthy, it wouldn’t make much sense for Mike Scott to be in the mix. Furkan Korkmaz is another candidate to see his minutes reduced or cut entirely. Unless Rivers is desperate for shooting in a particular game, there’s no need for Korkmaz.
As for Hill, though we don’t have a clear answer yet regarding his role, there’s a lot of evidence supporting the idea that he can play well next to stars.
With 26 regular-season games left for the Sixers and Hill not yet available to play, there won’t be a ton of time to work through the other details. Given Hill’s background (which includes 127 games of playoff experience), that’s not necessarily a cause for great concern.