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Hill Has a Shot

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

June 28, 2013, 12:45 AM

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Through the speakerphone, he sounded just like Danny Granger. In fact, should Granger need a stand-in for radio interviews next season, he can do it. Perhaps Granger can make it part of the rookie hazing program, you know? “Hey, kid. Do that radio thing for me today, OK?”

Other than that, we won't pretend to guess whether the Pacers' decision to draft Solomon Hill with the 23rd pick in Thursday's NBA draft was insightful or foolish. We know he was projected to go in the second round, which means the Pacers will receive low grades in all the post-draft recaps. But then they will be written by the same people who created the mock drafts that turned out to be so wrong. One of them probably will be written by the same guy who gave the Pacers an “F” for drafting Paul George in 2010.

The thing that most analysts are loathe to admit is that they don't watch the workouts, don't interview the prospects, and don't do nearly the first-hand research that a team's front office personnel does. So, the adult thing to do for most of us on draft night is to pass on knee-jerk reactions and wait and see. Of course, there's not much of a marketplace for that in sports journalism.

What we know about Hill is that his measurables are questionable and his intangibles are unquestioned.

He's less than 6-foot-6 in his bare feet, making him undersized for the small forward position. He's strong, and has the kind of frame that can become stronger, but doesn't have explosive speed or quickness. His wingspan – always a point of emphasis in the NBA – is nothing special. He's a good shooter, but not a great one. He considers himself a better defender than offensive player.

He's also mature, intelligent, unselfish and a natural leader. What other draft prospect has tweeted a Churchill quote? (“We shall neither fail nor falter; we shall not weaken or tire ... give us the tools and we will finish the job.”) He'll certainly be a comfortable fit in the Pacers' locker room, but the ultimate judgment will hinge on how he fits on the court.

So. Time will tell.

What Hill said, in his Granger-like voice, was that he thought about entering the draft after his junior season at Arizona but decided to come back because the team's first-round NIT defeat remained an irritant. He said he was surprised to have been a first-round pick, after averaging 13.4 points and earning first-team all-Pac 12 honors for a second consecutive season, but he probably based that reaction on what the mock drafts were whispering in his ear.

“But you can't get caught up in the mock drafts,” general manager Kevin Pritchard said. “There's the mock drafts and then there's reality.”

Pritchard acknowledged that the Pacers attempted to trade out of the first round to take Hill with a second round pick, but no opportunities were available.

“You can normally tell if you could have traded down if two minutes after the pick, you get calls,” Pritchard said. “We had multiple, multiple calls immediately trying to trade for the kid.”

Pritchard said the Pacers had been on Hill's trail since November. They obviously thought highly of his first workout, because they brought him back for a second one, always an indication of sincere interest.

“He's an unbelievable kid and an unbelievable worker,” Pritchard said.

Regardless of whether Hill winds up playing like Granger or Churchill, the more important transactions for the Pacers will come in July through free agency and trades. Twenty-third picks rarely have impact, although the Pacers got a lot out of Travis Best, who was 23rd in 1995, and Detroit didn't do badly with that shot-blocking demon Tayshaun Prince, who was 23rd in 2002.

The Pacers are beyond relying too heavily on a late first-round pick for help. They're certainly too good to get help from a late second-round pick, which is why they traded that one to Boston for cash. If Hill can earn playing time off the bench, fine. He would likely assume the role filled by Sam Young last season. If not, there's a veteran out there somewhere who can do it just as well as Young.

Young, for example.

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