Looking at San Antonio Spurs guard George Hill, the one skill he needs to improve on can't be taught in a gym, weight room or through game film. There is no physical way to improve this skill; this skill that I speak of has more to do with cognitive thinking than anything else.
What is this skill to which I speak of?
Some players have it. Some use it only when it’s needed. Thus far Hill is one of those players who uses it when the situation calls for it. When Tony Parker was injured and Hill started in March, Hill was very aggressive with a 30-point game against Memphis on March 27th. He followed the next night by scoring 27 points against Portland on March 28th. A few days later, Parker returned to the starting lineup and Hill scored just six points against Boston. He followed that game with less aggression as he finished with only five points against the Houston Rockets the following night.
Will Hill continue to be who he’s been the last two seasons? Is there anyway Hill can become a dominant sixth man and perimeter defender?
A Seasonal Assessment
In the 09-10’ season, Hill averaged 12.4 points per game in 29 minutes. His scoring increased to 13.4 points per game in the 2010 playoffs.
Hill had a similar season this year with fewer minutes.
Season: 76 games, 28.3mpg, 11.6ppg, 2.6rbd, 2.5ast, 0.87stl, 1.3TO, 2FPG, 45% FG, 38% 3PT, 86% FT.
Here is Hill’s scoring from a month-to-month basis.
Oct: 11ppg, Nov: 9.9ppg, Dec: 13.1ppg, Jan: 11.4ppg, Feb: 10.8ppg, Mar: 11.9ppg, Apr: 14.1ppg.
For the playoffs, Hill’s numbers were very close to those of his season averages.
Playoffs: 6 games, 31.5mpg, 11.7ppg, 5rbd, 2.3ast, 1.5stl, 1.3TO, 2.5FPG, 40% FG, 27% 3PT, 87% FT.
Hill’s three point shot was non-existent in the playoffs, as were the majority of his teammates three pointers due to Memphis’ perimeter defense. The question though, is how can you measure aggressiveness? There’s no stat for “aggression.”
The best way I feel you could look at aggression is by looking at how many shot and free throw attempts a player takes. For the season, Hill attempted 8.3 shots per contest. He attempted 3.6 foul shots per game, which meant he was getting to the line twice per game. Of his 8.3 shots, 5.6 of them were from 2PT range, 2.7 of them were from behind the arc. So in terms of attacking, one could assume that Hill was attacking the basket within 2PT range at an average of 5.6 times per game.
In the playoffs, Hill had similar numbers shooting 8.3 shots per game. 5.8 of those shots were from within 2PT range as the other 2.5 were from distance. Hill’s biggest increase the playoffs were his free throw attempts, which rose to 5 per game.
The most telling number of measuring aggression is to look at how Hill played being a starter versus coming off of the bench. In 5 games as a starter, Hill averaged 16.8 points per game. Coming off of the bench, he only scored 11.3 points per game. There is a very recognizable difference you can see when Hill starts and is in control of the offense (without Parker) as opposed to him coming off of the bench and becoming the fourth option.
“Attack! Attack! Where you at?”-Attack! Attack!
There is a hardcore band called ‘Attack! Attack!’ that has a song called “Hot Grills, and High Tops.” The main lyrics for the song are “Attack! Attack! Where you at?” Those lyrics need to be Hill’s mindset coming into next season. He has the ability and is a proven scorer in this league when he is put in the right circumstance. Through the season coach Gregg Popovich kept implying when Hill would enter the game, he had the green light to take over on offense. To paraphrase Parker, he even said when Hill is aggressive; it takes their team to another level.
I have no idea myself what Hill needs to spark that fire in him for 82 games? As I said, it has more to do with his cognitive thought processing than a specific physical attribute. Hill must search for that spark within himself and learn to hone in on it every time he enters the game. Players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are easily able to motivate themselves by criticism from others, but Hill may not be built that way.
Don’t Back Down
On defense, Hill must have that same ‘don’t back down’ demeanor that he showed on December 28th. Then, in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant tried to spark an altercation with Hill. Hill did not back down, instead he got back into Bryant’s face. Hill showed his toughness and tenacity through this one place.
Defensively, Hill has the physical ability (length, quickness, knowledge) to be a great perimeter defender. He must learn to garner respect amongst every backcourt in the NBA. When a team plays the Spurs, their backcourt needs to be saying, “Here goes another rough night, I’m going have to try to score Hill.”
For Hill, he has all the tools to become a dominant sixth man and even contend for the award next season. If he were to stay aggressive for an entire season, I would go as far as saying that he can be a 15-point per game scorer in this league.
The answer to finding that constant aggressiveness will be one Hill must search for this off-season. Is it in San Antonio? Is it in Indiana? Only Hill will know.
(Photos: Zimbio.com, Getty Images)