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Indianapolis, June 24 -- Look into the near future and envision a starting backcourt of Darren Collison and George Hill, with Paul George able to play three positions defensively and two offensively off the bench.
Or maybe George continues to start with Hill coming off the bench at both guard spots. Mix in A.J. Price as a solid point guard in reserve and Lance Stephenson as an up-and-coming two-position backcourt threat, and it's tough not to like what you see.
Small wonder, then, Larry Bird was clearly thrilled with his ability to acquire Hill from San Antonio Thursday night in a trade for No. 15 pick Kawhi Leonard and a pair of second-rounders.
"We're excited about it," Bird said. "I mean, usually you have a draft and everybody's excited but to get a player like George, I think he's really going to help us."
Just exactly how Hill figures into the rotation remains to be seen but it's unlikely he's a threat to Collison. He might supplant George as the starter at shooting guard but that won't mean reduced opportunity for last year's top pick.
Collison, Hill and George will get their share of minutes. It appears Stephenson is on the road to an increased profile. The players most affected, then, figure to be Mike Dunleavy, Brandon Rush, A.J. Price and Dahntay Jones.
Those four combined to play 257 minutes in the playoffs, almost as many as starters Collison and George (279). Of that group, Price played the most postseason minutes, a strong indicator of where he stands. Dunleavy is a free agent, Rush has played himself to the fringe of the rotation and Jones' future role remains unclear.
So there is room for Hill, not to mention need. A large-framed, long-armed guard considered San Antonio's best perimeter defender as well as a consistent offensive threat, Hill brings a well-rounded game that can help the Pacers in a variety of areas.
"I'm not the coach. I don't know where he's going to play. He's going to play," said Bird. "He can play the one and two. He's got experience. We know that Paul is still very young but it's not going to interfere with the minutes these guys have. He's just a good player that we feel we needed and I think he makes us a lot better. …
"By getting George, I don't think this hurts Lance at all. Lance can play the one or the two, George can play the one or the two. I think they can play together. Paul can go down and play some three, and Paul can play some one and two. It's just now we've got to get some experience and we're sitting in a pretty good position for free agency. Now, we've just got to go out and who we can get to make this team better."
Experts give Pacers high marks for trade
Though they emerged from the NBA Draft without a selection, the Pacers' acquisition of Hill drew praise from experts both local and national.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com Insider gave Indiana a B-plus in his draft grade report:
"On one hand, I really like that the Pacers opted out of the draft. They need help now and getting hometown hero George Hill could be considered a coup. The Pacers, along with a number of teams, have tried to pry Hill away for years. His versatility, toughness and playoff experience on a veteran roster all help accelerate the Pacers' rebuilding project. He can step in immediately and give them something they need: a guard who can create his own shot and defend.
"On the other hand, Leonard was one of my favorite players in the draft. I thought the Pacers were going back to 2005, when Danny Granger falling into their laps. But there's a time and place for everything and the Pacers have plenty of young talent already. They're ready to win and Hill helps them in that quest."
Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports listed Indiana as one of his draft-night winners:
"The Pacers not only filled a need for a shooting guard in Hill, but also landed an Indianapolis native who should be a hit with the fans. The Pacers finished last in the league in attendance last season. The former IUPUI star, Darren Collison and Paul George give the Pacers a young core of perimeter players. For Hill, the Spurs could’ve sent him to a lot worse places than his hometown team."
Even noted Pacers-basher Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star offered up praise for the move, calling it "one of the best draft nights" in recent Pacers history:
"Hill isn't a terrific pickup simply because he's a local guy, although that isn't going to hurt any at the box office. (Think owner Herb Simon was loving this move?) Hill is a terrific pickup because he's a proven commodity, an established, grown-up, NBA guard entering his fourth season who can play the point and the two-guard. He makes the Pacers bigger and deeper and more formidable in every conceivable way, leaving absolutely no reason this team shouldn't be better than .500 next season and for years to come."