Player Review 2014: Solomon Hill
Years Pro: 1
Status: Has four more years remaining on his rookie contract, with a team option after next season.
Key Stats: Averaged 1.7 points in 28 appearances, playing for a total of 226 minutes.
Maybe people learned their lesson from Miles Plumlee, who proved that just because you don't play as an NBA rookie doesn't mean you can't play.
Plumlee was derided as a bust in some fan and media quarters after last season, when he played just 55 minutes for the Pacers. Then he was traded to Phoenix and became a starting center who averaged 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds for a winning team, issuing a polite shaddup to the haters.
Solomon Hill averaged just 1.7 points in 28 games during his rookie season, but didn't seem to come in for nearly the same amount of criticism as Plumlee. Maybe that's because Hill looks like a player. He carries himself like a veteran – could even pass for an assistant coach, if someone didn't know better. Whether he turns out to actually play like an NBA player remains to be seen.
Photo Gallery: Solomon Hill's 2013-14 Season-in-Review
The small forward impressed in Summer League play, averaging 12.5 points while hitting 10-of-18 three-point field goals. He put it all together in the second game, scoring 22 points while hitting all four three-pointers, grabbing nine rebounds and passing four assists. He got a reality check in preseason play, however, averaging just 1.9 points on 20 percent shooting.
Still, he played well enough in practice to earn a spot in the playing rotation while Danny Granger was rehabilitating his knee. He played in nine of the first 10 games, but hit just 4-of-14 shots, including 1-of-10 three-pointers. He then all but disappeared when Granger returned, then Evan Turner was acquired, and Rasual Butler ultimately asserted himself. He drew DNPs in 25 regular season games and was inactive (in street clothes) in 29.
He had a few moments, though. He scored six points, hitting 2-of-3 three-pointers, in a blowout win over Washington in November. He had eight points, hitting both three-point attempts, in a blowout loss at Houston in March. He played a season-high 26 minutes in the final regular season game at Orlando and finished with five points and five rebounds.
Hill may lack the athleticism to become a star player, and will need to improve his shot, but he has the poise, maturity and all-around skill set that should allow him to contribute eventually. Team president Larry Bird is optimistic that it will happen. Bird recalled a late-season conversation with coach Frank Vogel in which he said he thought Hill could play then without hurting the team.
“He's improved a ton,” Bird said when he met with the media after the season. “He's a hard worker. He's out there every day beating it. He's going to be valuable next year. I thought earlier in the season he wasn't ready for it when he got to play, but he's ready now."
With Granger gone and Turner's status in doubt, there could be opportunity for Hill to prove it.