Philadelphia 76ers: Trading for George Hill over P.J. Tucker was a mistake

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /

When the Philadelphia 76ers traded three future second-round picks for George Hill, it felt like a good first move on what many expected to be a very busy trade deadline.

With a potent combination of draft picks, young players, and moveable contracts, Daryl Morey was surely primed to supercharge his roster and finally get the Sixers back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2021.

But who would it be? Would the Sixers land Kyle Lowry, the apple of many a Philly fan’s eye? Or what about his teammate Norman Powell? He was playing like a man on fire in the first half of the regular season, and securing his Bird Rights would have been clutch. Goodness, were the Sixers about to land Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans and unite the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft with the first?

Well, as it turns out, none of that was in the cards, as the Sixers held pat in the waning minutes pre-deadline and opted to roll forward with their already assembled roster heading into a slobberknocker with the Brooklyn Nets for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

In hindsight, that was a mistake. The 76ers landed a guard who just couldn’t perform to his previous level while watching their frontcourt deficiencies continue to plague Doc Rivers’ rotations and a quality bench option.

In layman’s terms: The Philadelphia 76ers really should have traded for P.J. Tucker.

Tucker would have been far more impactful for the Philadelphia 76ers than Hill.

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Trading for George Hill was always more about the future than the right now for the Philadelphia 76ers.

After finding himself stranded in Oklahoma City following an offseason trade from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Thunder as part of the four-team Jrue Holiday trade, Hill suffered a brutal thumb injury just after the start of the new year and was effectively sidelined indefinitely following surgery on the injured thumb in February.

If Hill was still the player who led the league in 3 point shooting percentage with the Bucks one season prior – albeit on only three attempts-per-game – his presence on the roster would have been an absolute boon. Despite having one of the winningest head coaches in NBA history running the show, the Sixers only had two players – Dwight Howard and Danny Green – with serious playoff experience at that point in the season and could have used a veteran 1B to both play in place of Ben Simmons and play alongside him at the two-guard spot.

That, unfortunately, isn’t what happened.

Hill didn’t make his debut with the Sixers until April 19th, 2021, and only put up double-digit points in three of his 16 regular season contests.

But hey, that’s cool; to quote Draymond Green, some people are 82 game players while others are built for 16. If Hill could serve as a viable top-of-the-bench rotational piece come the postseason run, all of those second-round picks Daryl Morey surrendered for his services – plus fast fan-favorite Tony Bradley – would be worth it.

*Spoiler alert* it wasn’t.

While Hill played amicably during the Sixers’ Round 1 Series versus Washington, averaging 7.8 points in a little over 19 minutes of action a night, his production fell off a cliff during the ECSFs versus the Atlanta Hawks; a series where he averaged 2.4 points on 3.3 field goal attempts per game in 15.7 minutes of action per night. Hill was thoroughly outplayed by Tyrese Maxey, as well as Matisse Thybulle, and even found himself outgunned by Shake Milton in a few contests where the ex-SMU Pony was like a flamethrower coming off the bench.

And as for the team’s reserve frontcourt players? Well, they were non-existent save Dwight Howard, who was never able to put in quality minutes when on the court with Simmons.

So, with the Sixers’ season officially over, what exactly did they get out of Hill? 152 points – 96 in the regular season and 56 in the playoffs – and a whole lot of wasted potential save some positive on-court encouragement for Maxey that could prove invaluable moving forward.

*sigh* the Sixers really should have just traded for P.J. Tucker.

Now, to be 100 percent fair, Tucker hasn’t been a revelation for the Milwaukee Bucks. He averaged fewer points than Hill during the regular season and only has a 0.1 point edge during the playoffs on eight more contests. But what Tucker has brought to the Bucks far exceeds traditional statistical accomplishments. His grit, effort, and positional versatility to play all three frontcourt spots has been a game enhancer for a Bucks team currently in the thralls of an NBA Finals series against the Phoenix Suns.

But do you know who could have seriously used Tucker even more than the Bucks? Your hometown Philadelphia 76ers who had a better asset pool to get a deal done if Houston Rockets GM Rafael Stone was willing to negotiate.

Though, practically speaking, this particular Bucks-Rockets trade was fairly complex, as it involved multiple players, multiple picks, and a pick unprotecting, but in actuality, all Houston received for was two bench players – who combined for 744 minutes in a Rockets uniform – a swap of picks in 2021 – from 24 to 31 – and a 2023 first-round pick in exchange for Tucker, Rodions Kurucs, and their own 2022 first-round pick.

See what I mean? Landing two first-round picks for an impending free agent is really easy to sell to any fanbase, but when you consider that the Rockets effectively swapped one first-round Bucks pick for another and only moved up seven spots in the 2021 NBA Draft, it’s not quite as exciting.

For a team like the Sixers, who at the time had second-round picks coming out of their ears, it wouldn’t have been hard to put together a noticeably more lucrative package to take Tucker, especially since they didn’t have to send any players back in a potential trade if they opted to utilize the Al Horford trade exception. Heck, just offering the Detroit Pistons’ 2021 second-round pick, which was ultimately traded to New York in the Hill deal, likely would have been enough to headline a trade alongside a few more future second-rounders to sweeten the pot.

If that would have happened, Tucker’s impact on the team would have been undeniable.

A long-time “Daryl Morey guy,” Tucker is a hard-nosed, two-way effort guy who will pick up hard fouls and set hard screens, all the while wearing the hardest sneaker finds you’ll ever see on an NBA court. He’s a decent enough outside shooter, a solid defensive rebounder, and most importantly of all, the sort of player who can be a fixture of seemingly any playoff rotation regardless of roster composition.

In theory, Hill is that kind of player too, but for a team like the Sixers, who largely relied on a collection of players 6-foot-6 or shorter behind Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Dwight Howard, adding yet another vertically-challenged combo guard really didn’t address the team’s biggest midseason issue. If anything, rolling with Hill forced the Sixers to play their best perimeter defender, Simmons, inside against bigger bodies who could have easily been guarded by a player like Tucker.

With a player like Tucker, maybe Simmons and Matisse Thybulle could go toe-to-toe versus Trae Young and Kevin Huerter in Game 7 versus the Hawks instead of having poor Seth Curry get consistently burned by a player four inches taller.

Next. Rumored Kings’ trade offer for Ben Simmons is a dud. dark

Will the Philadelphia 76ers ultimately pick up George Hills’ club option for the 2021-22 NBA season? Yes, but not because he played his way into another run with the team. No, the Sixers will commit to pay Hill $10 million and change solely to trade his contract elsewhere for a better-fitting piece, maybe a combo forward who can actually contribute in the postseason. Boy, couldn’t the 2020-21 iteration of the team used a player like that.