Whether you watch the Milwaukee Bucks from the stands or your couch, it’s unlikely you’re going to come away from the experience with George Hill’s impact on the game at the forefront of your mind.
And that makes sense.
He doesn’t defy physics like Giannis Antetokounmpo. He doesn’t have the athleticism of Eric Bledsoe. He doesn’t score like Khris Middleton. He doesn’t bomb deep three-pointers like Brook Lopez. He’s not shooting at a high clip from everywhere like Malcolm Brogdon.
You get the picture.
However, in his 13 games since being traded to the Bucks, Hill has been a consistent contributor. His offense is getting back to speed after he missed time earlier this season with a right shoulder sprain — not to mention having to adjust to a whole new team and system on the fly. Over the past two games, Hill has shot efficiently, putting up 12 and 11 points, respectively, and his own shooting issues haven’t stopped the Bucks from being a highly efficient offensive team when he’s been on the court.
While some fans have clamored for the high-flying stylings of Pat Connaughton or another look at rookie Donte DiVincenzo, it’s been Hill’s two-way efficiency and overall versatility that has earned him a regular spot in the rotation that doesn’t seem to be in any sort of danger in the near future.
“I think George has earned the trust of his teammates and the coaching staff and myself pretty quickly,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think he does it with just his competitiveness. … He just does lots of little winning things; I think it becomes a little bit contagious.”
Most of those little things have come on the defensive end, where Hill has been especially impactful.
There have been multiple instances of Hill sneaking behind players to poke away steals or swipe away offensive rebounds. He’s also likely to be one of the first players to hit the deck fighting for a loose ball, something he recently did Saturday night while the Bucks were trying to come back against the Toronto Raptors early in the fourth quarter.
The accumulation of all those little things combined with Hill’s overall versatility and veteran savvy have resulted in some strong defensive numbers when the Bucks have Hill on the court. In his 278 minutes over 13 games, the Bucks have a 103.8 defensive, according to Basketball-Reference.com, an elite number that is the best on-off defensive rating among the team’s guards.
“Just being myself. I think all the guys in this locker room know I’m super competitive,” Hill said. “I only know how to play one way and that’s the right way. Defend at a high level, use your defense to dictate your offense and even with the other guys coming off the bench that’s all we talk about and all we focus on even in practice – to be great defensively. We always say we’ve got to be one of the best benches in the league. … All the guys, not just myself, have done a great job with that.”
The only Bucks player whose on-off splits include a better defensive efficiency is Thon Maker at 102.4. In the 92 minutes Hill and Maker have been on the court together, opponents are putting up a paltry 86.0 points per 100 possessions.
Maker, however, was a healthy scratch for Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors. With Ersan Ilyasova’s return from a broken nose on Friday, Budenholzer faces the tough decision between Ilysaova, Maker and D.J. Wilson for frontcourt playing time. On Friday, all three got to play as the Bucks routed the Atlanta Hawks. But in a tighter game Saturday, Ilyasova and Wilson received playing time, with Maker glued to the bench even after Wilson left the game in the first half with a left hip pointer injury.
“It’s the hard part about our league,” Budenholzer said Friday. “We have a roster with a lot of depth and a lot of good players. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions. Sometimes you play a little bit bigger rotation. We’ll see. Certainly been happy with D.J., happy with Thon. Ersan’s a veteran guy and we’re happy about having him back. … This league is amazing how opportunity’s always around the corner for someone who isn’t playing.”
Depending on the severity of Wilson’s injury, something that won’t become clear until Monday ahead of the Bucks’ 7 p.m. game against the Utah Jazz at Fiserv Forum, Maker might get his chance to see the court again. One part of the rotation is certain, though, and that’s Hill getting regular opportunities to affect the game.
“George Hill coming in he’s making plays, passing the ball, making the right reads, playing defense,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s been in the league 12 years now, so he knows what he’s doing out there. He’s been doing a great job; hopefully, he can keep doing that.”