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2016-17 Player Preview: Solomon Hill might be a two-way player just in theory

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The journey for a legitimate starting small forward remains littered with question marks.

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been three months and I still don’t know how to feel about the Solomon Hill signing. To make matters worse, his opening night stat line of 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 steal were dominated by a 1-7 shooting performance (0-4 from three-point range) and 4 personal fouls across 27 minutes.

Solomon Hill? Who? He got how much?

Frankly I hadn’t even heard of Hill prior to joining New Orleans. I had a very pleasant discussion with Tom Lewis over at Indy Cornrows who got me better acquainted with the Pelicans 42,196th different attempt at cracking their ever-confounding reliable starting small forward riddle. Do I have any better feeling about Hill after talking with Tom and doing some more independent research?

Not really, no.

Get in as you fit in, that’s my motto. If the Pelicans want to hand out $48 million to a guy who started 81 games (and three, count ‘em, three last year), then by God go ahead and hand out that $48 million. But doesn’t it feel like the Pelicans are maybe offering just a biiittttt too much for a guy who’s averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds for his career, let alone feeling too confident in handing him 1 of the 30 starting small forward jobs in the league?

Now look, I get it: NBA teams overpay guys all the time. And with the new TV deal and the increase in salary cap space, teams will be spending even more money from here on out. It’s a great time to be alive, really. But I can’t get a feel for if this was a smart, buy-low on a relatively unheard of player that’ll pay off big in the future, or if Hill, who was a player in a contract year, saved his best stretch of basketball (Indiana’s 2016 playoff series against Toronto) or just got damn lucky for when it mattered most.

Imagine the following game scenario with me. On the court New Orleans has Hill, Anthony Davis and Omer Asik together. Can Hill and Asik keep defenses somewhat off of Davis — in other words, Alvin Gentry design an effective offense with sub-optimal components — or will opponents respect their offensive games so little that they leave them completely alone and AD gets suffocated?

If logic counts, the latter’s bound to happen. We all know about Asik’s struggles on offense, but let’s look at Hill: he’s a career 41 percent shooter from the floor and is not an established threat to extend defenses. He started a career high 79 games the 2014-15 season and was a sub 40-percent shooter that year. This past preseason with the Pelicans, he sported a 34.4 FG%. Isn’t anyone else concerned by these figures? Those Al-Farouq Aminu/Greg Steimsma days did not go so well.

Let’s play a game and see which player you’d rather have:

Player A: 6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, Defensive Rating of 104 for 4 years/$48 million

Player B: 6.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, Defensive Rating of 107 for 3 years/$8.9 million

I’m getting almost the same exact production out of Player B for almost $40 million less. If you’re like me and think the relatively negligible difference in defense is worth saving $40 million, then you’re saying you’d rather have Dante Cunningham than Hill. Way to go Pelicans, you’ve played yourselves.

Now, I feel like I’m being really negative here. Let’s change the tone and look at the positives. As much as I lambasted Hill’s offensive deficiencies, let’s remember he wasn’t brought here to try and win the scoring title. When has offense ever been a problem for New Orleans? Exactly. The Pelicans need help with perimeter defense and Hill can be that guy. It’s questionable he’ll morph into a 3-and-D wing, but he’ll definitely contribute to a marked improvement on the defensive end as Oleh detailed over the summer.

Also, let’s recall what Tom told me about Hill over the summer:

Solomon Hill’s not going to be a superstar in the NBA, but the Pelicans didn’t sign him to be one. They need a player who’s a two-way player and is willing to guard most everyone, from the quicker guards to the bigger forwards. That’s who we all hope Solomon Hill is; that’s what the Pelicans paying him to be.

We’ll see if it was money well spent.

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