After the San Antonio Spurs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season, most everyone knew a change needed to be made. The Spurs were too small.
What happened they did not expect.
The Spurs traded George Hill to Indiana for the 15th pick in the draft, the 42nd pick and the rights to Erazem Lorbek. The picks ended up being Kawhi Leonard and Davis Bertans. The trade stunned Spurs fans and saddened many, including Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford. Since then though, Spurs fans have fallen in love with Leonard since they see him as the second coming of Bruce Bowen.
So now the question is are the Spurs better or worse with Leonard instead of Hill?
The question isn’t completely fair since Hill plays point and two guard and Leonard plays the two and three. Looking at the raw numbers, Leonard and Hill are having similarly effective seasons.
Hill is averaging 9.3 points, 2.6 assists and three rebounds per game with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 15.38. Leonard is averaging 7.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game with a PER of 16.89. Leonard was in and out of the starting line up while Manu Ginobili was out with a broken finger. He then became a full time starter at small forward when the Spurs traded Richard Jefferson to Golden State for Stephen Jackson. Hill recently became Indy’s starting point guard and is a key contributor to the third best team in the Eastern Conference. Both players have had positive impacts for their teams this season.
So the next question is was the Hill trade worth it?
I’ll say it absolutely was. I love George Hill and wrote somewhere along the way that he made Tony Parker expendable for the last couple of seasons. It would appear that was a bit of an over statement, but Hill fit in to the Spurs’ system that well. The problem for Hill was he was playing behind two All-Stars. Leonard replaced Jefferson, who I’ll defend more than most but still admit he was incredibly replaceable. The Spurs’ problems last spring wasn’t that they were lacking in shooters and play makers. They were just small.
Too many times did we see Hill chasing around guys like Kevin Durant. Hill can do it, but he just shouldn’t have to on a regular basis. Leonard is much better suited for these assignments. He also, as it turns out, isn’t a bad shooter and isn’t afraid to dunk on some dudes. And he’s only 20.
He’s only begun to scratch the surface of his ability. And if one of Europe’s best big men, Erazem Lorbek is also coming to the Spurs, well then this trade could become lopsided pretty quickly.