For it being his first week with a new team, new Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill saw a lot of familiar people and places.
When he joined the Bucks in Toronto on Sunday, it brought a reunion with coach Mike Budenholzer, who was an assistant in San Antonio where Hill started his NBA career from 2008-’11. Then, in a span of five days, the Bucks twice faced off against the team Hill had just come from – the Cleveland Cavaliers – both at home and on the road.
Sandwiched in between was a visit to Indianapolis, where Hill was a star at Broad Ripple and IUPUI years before fans there chanted “hometown hero” in his direction while a member of the Indiana Pacers from 2011-’16. If that trip down memory lane wasn’t enough, the Bucks even practiced Thursday at Hill’s former gym, affectionately known as “The Jungle” on IUPUI’s campus.
“I feel like I touched every part of my career so far in the last week or so,” Hill said. “It’s been an amazing journey so far and the book is unfinished still.”
Over the past few years, Hill, 32, has certainly logged the miles on his NBA journey. After being relatively stable in his first eight seasons – three with the Spurs then five with the Pacers — Hill has played for four teams during the past four seasons and been part of midseason trades twice in a 10-month span.
In the three times he’s been traded since July 2016, though, he has always wound up on the better side of the standings. It happened when he went from Indiana to the Utah Jazz, again in February when he went from the Sacramento Kings to the finals-bound Cavaliers and now a third time with last week’s trade.
Hill’s regular jump up the standings has been partly because in those deals he’s always been seen a valuable piece instead of just filler. At 6-foot-3 with long arms, good defensive instincts, a solid shot and plenty of experience he’s been sought by teams looking for help, which is reaffirming even as he bounces around more than he’s been used to.
“For me, it’s a blessing no matter what,” Hill said. “People say, ‘Well, you’ve been sent to different places.’ To be sent to different places it means you’re wanted in different places at the same time.”
Still, the constant fluctuation can do a number on a player. Changing teams means finding a new place to live, adjusting your family life, acclimating to a new city and more and often needing to do all of that on the fly.
“I’ve got one house and it’s in Texas,” Hill said, referring to his approximately 700-acre ranch in the Texas Hill Country where he loves to hunt, fish and enjoy outdoor activities. “Everything else is rentals for more. I’ve learned, after my first trade in San Antonio, that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket in a place. I go in with a mentality that I’m there temporarily. If it’s multiple years, then that’s great, but my mindset is there temporarily.”
It’s entirely possible Hill’s stay in Milwaukee will be temporary, too. One of the major drivers of last week’s trade was that Hill’s contract for 2019-’20 only includes a partial guarantee for $1 million if the Bucks waive him before July 1. Doing so would open up salary cap space, which the Bucks could use to either re-sign one of their four starters destined for free agency this summer or try to lure a player from the outside.
In fact, due to the timing of the trade, both Hill and center Jason Smith, who came from the Washington Wizards as part of the deal, are both eligible to be traded again before the trade deadline if the Bucks wanted to flip them.
While he doesn’t know long his rental will last in Milwaukee, Hill has focused on making his time count. He’s still getting acclimated to his new team and figuring out how he can best help, but he’s not in a rush. He knows all of that will come in time.
It helps to know he will be a regular part of the rotation, something Budenholzer shared with the media Wednesday. Through his three appearances with the Bucks, Hill has played nearly 60 minutes off the bench while totaling eight points on 4 of 13 shooting along with four assists and three steals.
Most importantly, the veteran guard wants fit in with his new teammates and assist the Bucks on their upward trajectory by sharing his experience gained over numerous trips deep into the playoffs. He hasn’t been shy about making his voice heard, either.
“He’s a really, really good vet on and off the floor,” Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “He’s not one of these vets you bring in that’s a great locker-room guy. He’s a guy that’s going to contribute on the floor, lead by example with his voice, really help contribute this year. …
“He knows who he is; he’s a very confident guy, but he also knows what it takes to win. He’s been part of winning teams, winning cultures. We need someone like that in our locker room and he’s going to serve as that.”
Still trying to get a handle on all the details of the trade that brought Hill and Smith to Milwaukee? Here’s a summary of what happened as it relates to the Bucks.
The Bucks sent Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson to the Cavaliers along with a future first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick. Moving Dellavedova and Henson, together owed more than $19 million in 2019-’20, is what opened up cap space for the coming summer.
The Bucks received Hill from the Cavaliers and Smith from the Wizards. Washington also sent Milwaukee a 2021 second-round pick and removed the protections (previously 31-47) on a 2020 second-round pick owed to the Bucks.
That’s all pretty straightforward, but things get more complicated when determining which first-round pick the Bucks will send to the Cavaliers. According to NBA rules, teams cannot trade first-round picks in back-to-back years, so the pick the Bucks send to the Cavaliers will have to be two years after the conveyance of the one they already owe to the Phoenix Suns.
Milwaukee’s pick destined for Phoenix will go to the Suns in 2019 if it falls between Nos. 4-16, something that is not likely to happen based on the Bucks’ current record. In 2020, that pick is only top-seven protected and in 2021 the pick is unprotected.
The pick owed to Cleveland is lottery-protected in 2021, top-10 protected in 2022, protected 1-10 and 25-30 in 2023 and top-eight protected in 2024. If somehow it has not conveyed by 2024, it will turn into two second-round picks in 2025.
With those parameters in place, the most likely scenario at this point is the Bucks sending their 2020 first-round pick to Phoenix and their 2022 first-round pick to Cleveland. Regardless, the Bucks will at least have their own first-round pick for three of the next five drafts.