I admit, I was one of those guys that was not high on him. When the Spurs picked George Hill at no. 26 in the 2008 draft, I was thinking that if they were to draft a backup point guard for Tony at the time, they should have gone with a proven player say a Mario Chalmers perhaps? But that's just me, and for a lot of reasons I respected and liked most of the Spurs front office decisions. But when summer league started that year, My disappointment grew as Hill continues to struggle with his shots...
Then I see something, even though he is not making his shots he's extremely athletic (with a ridiculous 6-9 wingspan) and is a capable defender at the time. I also noticed that despite his lack of production, Coach Pop was not actually hard on him. Soon I learned that what the Spurs really liked, is his ability to defend. They knew that this guy can really play defense at an NBA level.
When the season started, I was actually keeping an eye on another new Spur, Roger Mason Jr. (mainly because Manu is out at the start of the season) and I was hearing more about his 3 point shooting ability. A few games into the season, the unthinkable happened... Tony Parker injured his ankle! But as it turned out, it's a break the George needed, during Parker's absence he has gained more playing time and in return gave productive minutes for the Spurs. In a short span (I think it was 3 games), he scored close to 20 points per game and more importantly he showed that he can play the point position well. (He's a scorer at IUPUI essentially playing the 2 spot)
I also remembered a sequence in game played against the Bulls in the early part of last season. Hill drove to the basket and Andres Nocioni took him down by the shoulder earning a flagrant foul in the process. Guess what happened next? Hill drove right at him the next trip down, drew another foul proving he wasn't intimidated. Most Rookies will back off when those things happened, not Hill he's tough physically and mentally. With him and Mason at the back court, they did a descent job.
As the season progressed so as did Hill's improvement, he even earned minutes during crunch time defending the other team's best player (most notably Kobe)... You would think he finally earned Coach Pop's full trust and confidence but when the playoffs is just around the corner, Pop said “This playoff probably isn’t for him,” referring to Hill. As young as he is, Hill didn't complain not a single word, he is mature enough to understand that his coach knows what he's doing and that it's all about team success. He certainly believes his time will come, a little more patience can only help. And about the playoffs? He played anyway, and one could argue that he probably is the 3rd best player on the floor for the Spurs in that series.
This offseason, Hill together with Malik Hairston showed tremendous improvement during summer league play. Now he is expected to be the primary backup point guard behind Tony Parker, I think he can deliver. What I really liked about Hill is he doesn't give up on any play and after one year under his belt? I see more confidence in his play also his ability to finish at the rim seems better. This year he definitely made a big step in the right direction and could be a solid contributor to the Spurs title hopes (providing solid production off the bench and giving Parker enough rest will be huge come playoff time) And if you'd ask me again if I'll take Chalmers over Hill? things have changed, I'm sticking with Hill. The guy showed class and is great fit to the Spurs system. Lesson learned Pop knows best!