Contract Tears: The Curious Case of George Hill Who Lost the Most Money in NBA History

This is going to get ugly.

Financially, we’re talking NC-40 so technically I shouldn’t even be writing this. But I already saw so it’s too late so I may as well talk it out on the firm leather couch with only one arm rest.

I wrote about this fairly extensively in my NBA bubble bursting/Kevin Durant ruined everything article but I thought this cautionary tale and the carnage that ensued was worthy of its own slot so here we go.

George Hill turned down a 3 year extension from the Jazz last year.

The extension offer was 3 years for $74 million + a $13.6 million raise for last year (2017). When you stacked it on last year’s salary, it would have totaled 4 years for $88 million.

Clearly, both he and the Jazz envisioned things going differently this 2017 Summer.

George saw Mike Conley light up the scoreboard with a 5 year, $153 million dollar deal in 2016 and so he likely thought he was a $100 million dollar man too.

The Jazz probably liked the stable, seasoned point guard Hill was, remembered last season’s Wolf of Wall Street party during free agency and thought they’d bridge the gap and save themselves a little money while giving themselves certainty at the point guard position.

One problem on Hill’s end is I think he slightly overestimated who he was or at least his perception around the league. He’s not a top tier point guard. He’s maybe on the fringe of the 2nd tier but he more easily fits at the top of the third tier as a good/solid point guard who you’d like to have as a complementary piece.

He played well for the Jazz with averages of 16.9 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.4 RPG. He infused talent, defense, and a puzzle piece that fit in perfectly to their team first system.

In other words, he’s a good player capable of being an above average starting point guard.

Secondly, the number of teams looking for a point guard weren’t that many.

San Antonio certainly seemed like a perfect fit but they balked and elected to go without a starter when George Hill let his price tag be known.

Boston had space but they were going after big fish and already have a point guard.

The Nets had already traded for DeAngelo Russell and were building for the future anyways.

The Bulls had some cap space and needed a point guard but, again, a pricey Hill doesn’t make sense on Chicago.

The Cavs definitely would have liked to acquire GH but they had absolutely no cap space.

The Mavericks had the space and could have Hill seemingly fit the team but they didn’t move on him, perhaps opting to stay flexible for the big free agents in 2018.

We could go down the line but you get the idea.

That the Kings signed him is actually a mild surprise seeing as how they just drafted De’Aaron Fox.

As you can see, Hill got caught in an awkward situation this year. There’s no reason for bad teams to lock him up. Good teams couldn’t afford him. Floating, middle of the road teams are keeping their flexibility for next year.

Another huge problem is George turned 31 in May!

(Oh yeah, and he’s had various injuries.)

Who’s handing out $100m to above average 31 year old point guards?

The Raptors and the Rockets, that’s who.

But the Rockets got Chris Paul (he’ll get the super max extension next year) who’s at least currently in the elite tier despite his already diminishing physical abilities.

And the Raptors gave Kyle Lowery a deal because he’s regarded as good and they figured it was better to bring the band back together with star talents Jimmy Butler and Paul George headed West (but the East is still not wide open because Lebron’s still there! Like the Bulls and Pacers were gatekeepers with George and Butler anyways!).

I think the Raptors could have saved themselves money just by sticking at $80m and letting Lowery test the nearly dried up market when he signed.

King Me

As 2017 free agency waded on, it became clearer and clearer that negotiating hard and waiting for greener pastures was a horrible idea.

Hill ultimately signed with the Kings after rumors of a 1 year deal with the Lakers.

The contract terms were already ominous: 3 years, $57 million.

But what deserved a girl in a summer horror movie curdled scream was the third year was only guaranteed for $1m!

So Hill ended up with a 2 year deal worth $40 million (the Kings aren’t paying him $18m in 2020 at the age of 34).

In the end, the likeable and lanky point guard lost $47.6m minus whatever someone’s willing to pay him when he’s 34.

Probably about $44 million lost.

And that money’s not recoverable. It’s gone forever.

Also, George Hill’s state income tax in California will be 13.3%. Utah has a flat rate of 5%.

This makes everything even worse.

Who was his agent?

According to this Vigilant Sports article, Matthew Ward was brought on officially before free agency but was an advisor and associate for quite some time.

Michael Whitaker and Bill Neff were apparently also agents of some sort but were fired in December.

This ESPN article reports Hills rejection of the restructuring and subsequent extension (totaling 4/88) on March 1, 2017 so it looks like Matthew Ward was on duty when the fuck up happened.

Cautionary Tale

I don’t know how much players and agents are strategizing for free agency and mapping out the different scenarios but with so much money on the line, they should be spending at least two weeks number crunching and calculating risk/reward.

I’d also bring in some astute, objective observers to provide different angles.

Even in hindsight, when you look at the extension rejection, how much more was he going to gain even in a wild and crazy market like last summer?

At 31 and above average, not that much more.

Maybe $100m?

And which teams 1) needed him at pg and 2) were going to pay him the money?

For $50,000, Hill could have constructed an all out war room to determine his next move.

Maybe he only had a few days to decide on the Jazz’s offer. So be it. Get your agents, advisors, bring in some outside sources and have an impromptu conference in a mountain lodge.

This is serious stuff. Millions are at stake and uncertainty is abound.

With volatility comes both gains and losses. I think Hill lost the most money ever.

Edit: This is an awesome look at Hill’s supposed thinking and contract possibilities if he received the max. I think Hill was delusional. He was never worth anything close to $25/m a season.

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