Utah Jazz: Is George Hill in a Slump or Coming Back Down to Earth?

Despite an incredible start to the season, Utah Jazz guard George Hill hasn’t shot as efficiently of late. Is this just a slump or is it a hot streak coming to an end?

There’s no sense denying it, George Hill has been an absolutely incredible addition to the Utah Jazz this season. For a team that struggled mightily at the point guard position last year, Hill has been nothing short of a godsend that has helped elevate the Jazz’s game to a whole new level.

Yesterday I discussed how the Jazz still find themselves with a bit of a point guard conundrum due to the inconsistent play of their reserves at the position, but there’s no question that Hill has been nothing but positive for this Jazz team.

On the season so far, he’s averaging 18.1 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting from the field and 44.9 percent from deep. He’s also chipping in 3.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists while posting an incredible +10.2 mark when he’s on the court, which is the best on the team. Not to mention, Utah is an exceptional 15-4 when Hill plays.

G-Hill has been able to nearly flawlessly execute Utah’s offense, has come up big in clutch moments and has provided much needed experience and confidence for this team.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns

Unfortunately, he’s also been the recipient of an awful string of bad luck with injuries. First he suffered a sprained thumb, then a sprained toe followed by a concussion and lip laceration which came as a result of taking an elbow to the face from Phoenix’s Alex Len on New Year’s Eve.

He also tweaked his ankle in Monday’s contest against the Suns (playing Phoenix has not been kind to Hill this year), but he’s listed as day-to-day and with three days of rest between games, there’s a good chance he’ll be fine and ready to go for Friday’s contest at Dallas.

And luckily, so far after each of the three aforementioned injuries, Hill was able to return to action as if he hadn’t skipped a beat. Perhaps the best example of this was his first game back after the sprained thumb where he was able to put up 22 points on 61.5 percent shooting with three made three-pointers against the Denver Nuggets.

Most recently, in his first game back after the nasty hit he took against Phoenix, Hill scored 19 points and helped Utah go on an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to top Minnesota. Since then, however, for the most part his numbers haven’t been quite as impressive as what we had come to expect.

He was phenomenal against Detroit with 22 points while shooting 61.5 percent from the field and 5-of-6 from deep, but left a little to be desired in the other four contests. In the games against Memphis and Cleveland, he wasn’t bad by any means, but he did finish under his season average in scoring with 15 and 13 points, respectively, and wasn’t as efficient as he had been previously.

And in his last two contests, I’d go as far as to say that Hill struggled mightily to find his shot. Against Orlando, not only did he finish with a fewer than normal 14 points, but he did it after going just 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) from the field and 0-of-5 from deep. He followed that up with a 7-of-18 (38.9 percent) from the field and 1-of-8 from deep performance against Phoenix.

For those of you keeping track at home, that means Hill has made only one of his last 13 three-point attempts. For someone who led the league in three-point shooting just last Friday to suddenly drop off that quickly is somewhat alarming.

Therefore, the questions that emerge are, is Hill simply in a slump or his he coming back down to earth somewhat? Were his first 14 games as a Jazzman just a hot streak or can he get back to that level of efficiency?

Given that Hill’s current points per game and shooting percentages from the field and behind the arc are career highs by a significant margin and that his career numbers are 11.5 points per game, a field goal percentage of 45.2 percent and a three-point percentage of 38 percent, it’s probably not likely that he will maintain the ultra-high numbers he posted early in the season.

In the eight games Hill played in the month of November he was scoring 20 points per game while posting a ridiculous 55.4 percent field goal percentage and shooting 52.5 percent from behind the arc. That’s not just good, that’s impeccable.

So Hill’s performances of late could very well be him coming back down to reality a little bit, however, I still would definitely consider his latest outings more of a slump than anything.

While he may not be able to maintain his incredible efficiency from the first 14 games over the course of the rest of the season, he shot better than 40 percent from deep just last year and has definitely been an underrated three-point shooter throughout his career.

Not to mention, so far Utah’s offense has allowed him to play exactly to his strengths. Rather than being forced to stand in the corner to simply wait to take spot-up threes and not having many opportunities to be aggressive as was the case in Indiana, Hill is now running the offense, finding his shots and being completely encouraged to be aggressive.

And while Hill quite likely will not be able to maintain better than 50 percent shooting from the field or the arc as he has at points during the season, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to stay comfortably in the mid-40s in both categories.

So while I don’t mean to take the easy way out or anything, the answer to the question posed earlier is that Hill is probably somewhere in the middle. Is he going to come back to earth somewhat from his hot start? Most likely. But does that mean his last two games are indicative of how he’s going to play moving forward? Not at all.

He’s certainly in a bit of a slump, particularly in the last two games, but I fully expect him to get his groove back soon and be at least solid, if not spectacular.

The good thing about Hill is that even when he has an off night or perhaps isn’t playing incredibly well, he has shown this year that he still makes his teammates as individuals and as a collective team much better than when he isn’t in the game.

And while his last two inefficient outings have been surprising, in reality after the incredible start he got off to and all the injuries he’s had to deal with, he was due for a bad game or two and we’re actually fortunate that he hasn’t had more.

Now with a couple poor shooting nights out of the way, however, hopefully Hill can soon return to packing at least a semblance of the shooting and scoring punch that Jazz fans had grown accustomed to and continue to lead this team to formerly unreachable heights.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com

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