For many years now the New Orleans Pelicans have tried and tried again to solve their lingering hole at the small forward position but their attempts have been fruitless.
While the list of former New Orleans small forwards is neither as long or as sad as say Cleveland Brown quarterbacks since their return to football in 1999 or Taylor Swift ex-boyfriends, the Pelicans have employed anything between a cardboard cutout and a revolving door opposite of Anthony Davis. As a refresher, here’s a quick rundown of Pelican small forwards since David West left New Orleans in 2011:
- Trevor Ariza
- Al-Farouq Aminu
- Xavier Henry
- Dominic McGuire
- Darius Miller
- Josh Childress
- Tyreke Evans
- Luke Babbitt
- John Salmons
- Johnny “Not Real” McFakePerson
Okay maybe I made that last one up. The point is the Pelicans have needed a wing to pair opposite franchise player and potential mutant basketball warlord Anthony Davis and they have yet to do so. Be it health, poor fit or insufficient skill, the Pelicans have a need for a small forward and have, to quote my former band director *Roy King, “been wandering around like our ancestors looking for water” trying to find one.
*#BandWithRoy #StandWithRoy #Where’sTheOutrage? #I’amOut!
In take number 43,274,193 to find a suitable small forward, the Pelicans signed former Indiana Pacer Solomon Hill to a four-year, $48 million deal. The deal’s been met with equal parts “das a good deal” reverence and “das an overpayment if I ever seen one” skepticism.
The truth is probably somewhere in between. Hill only averaged four points and two rebounds last season, but in the playoffs Hill seemingly made “the leap” against Toronto. Hill averaged eight points and four rebounds and played himself into this deal with New Orleans.
To really get to the bottom of the enigma that is Solomon Hill’s potential, I had a little chat with Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows. You can follow him for all your Indiana Pacer needs at @IndyCornrows.
First thing's first, who is Solomon Hill? What are the Pelicans gaining/Pacers losing?
Solomon Hill is the type of player fans will love because he consistently give a strong effort and is willing to take on any defensive challenge put before him, and if he can contribute on offense like he did for the Pacers at the end of last season, he will become a fan favorite in a hurry. The Pacers would no doubt love a re-do on not picking up the last option (justifiable at the time) on Solo's rookie contract since he could provide versatile stretch-4 minutes for a team trying to play smaller and quicker. On top of his effort, Solo is really sharp and works well with the media whether he's the goat or hero after a game.
So far through his career, Hill's averaging 4 points and 2 rebounds but New Orleans just signed him to a $48 million deal. This a new NBA we're living in and everyone's getting paid, but did New Orleans overpay for a guy who's not exactly stuffing the stat sheet?
I've admittedly lost all sense of what the term overpaid means in the NBA, but I was certainly stunned by the commitment the Pelicans made to Solo. Larry Bird was completely justified in declining Solo's option prior to last season. While we all knew he had the makings of a Draymond Green type of player, his offensive deficiencies, particularly shooting from the perimeter, just turned him into a frustrating player when he was given significant minutes. But the late season shooting spree exposed the exact game he seemed capable of which is what New Orleans is gambling that he can maintain. I also think a new environment will help give Solo a boost. He can fit in with any group, but now he won't be the young player working his way through the pecking order of a veteran locker room. Not having the safety net of a familiar coaching staff and teammates to lean on will be a good thing.
The small forward position has been a revolving door for New Orleans for years now. Is Hill the guy that can provide New Orleans with some much needed stability?
Solo will show up ready to go every night, so again, even if his offensive production isn't always reliable, his effort to make plays and defend will always show up. With other offensive options in New Orleans, having that dirty-work, effort guy in the lineup should be valuable.
How do you see Hill fitting with Anthony Davis?
Solo should work well with Anthony Davis since he is an active player. On the offensive end, he is quite capable of driving the ball in the lane. Now, he can get in trouble at time with his decision making once the drive clogs, but having Davis lurking should make it much easier to find a finisher. Without the ball, Solo does a great job staying in motion and cutting himself open which will keep defenses honest when Davis has the ball in his hands. On defense, Solo will be plenty willing to take on a bigger, tougher defensive assignment, to spare some wear and tear on AD.
New Orleans has been atrocious defensively the past three seasons, please tell me Hill can help improve the Pelicans in this area.
Solo will surely help on defense because he is pretty versatile. He's willing to guard anyone or any size from point guards through power forwards. He's a smart defender off the ball and only gets in real trouble with smaller, quick guys on the ball (which is a problem for every player in the NBA). Since being drafted by the Pacers, the team has always had a strong defensive identity and any minutes Solo earned were due to his effort on the defensive end.
In 2014-15, Hill played in all 82 games for Indiana, but this past season that number dropped to 53 appearances. Why?
Solo ended up playing the most minutes over the 2014-15 season thanks to the broken leg that had Paul George out for nearly the whole season. The team also worked through several other minor injuries to George Hill and David West during that season, but Solo was always ready to go to work. Unfortunately, his production was streaky at best, but it is only natural that he would wear down at times after being thrust into such a big role for the first time.
The two figures New Orleans fans point to as signs of optimism are his per-36 averages (10.6 points, 5.4 rebounds) and his averages this past postseason (7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds). Are numbers like that a reasonable expectation for Hill going forward?
Assuming a 25-30 minute role in the playing rotation, I'd expect those numbers to be a bit higher as long as Solo can keep defenses honest with his perimeter shot.
Speaking of this postseason, the Pacers series against Toronto is when many agree Hill took "the leap." Do you concur, did the light go on for Hill or was that just a flash in the pan?
Solo's minutes increased over the last couple weeks of the regular season and two games toward the end, against Cleveland and Toronto, saw him make several three-pointers and really give the team an energy boost when he was on the floor. He made 6 of 11 three pointers in those two games which seemed like a mere hot streak from a guy who has always shot in the low 30 percent range from behind the arc. In the playoffs, that shooting touch carried over and he made 11 of 19 (58 percent!!!) which exposed all of his potential value when combined with the two-way effort he always expends. I feel comfortable speaking for Pacers fans, hoping Solo picks up where he left off in Indy and has tons of success with the Pelicans!