Solomon Hill sits at the halfway point of his four-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, but a small army of fans have longed for some time now for the team to be rid of his onerous contract from off the books.
Hey, it’s hard to fault this seemingly ever-growing, anti-Solo sentiment.
Simply put, Hill has consistently failed to cement his place in the league as a legitimate starter when handed the opportunity, yet he is collecting checks that indicate he should at least be passable at the small forward position and averaging around thirty minutes a game.
Of course, last season should probably be thrown out the window because a torn hamstring muscle and a painfully slow rehabilitation process cost him the entire 2017-18 campaign, but sadly below average performances are not unusual in his career. As you may remember, Hill’s first year in New Orleans didn’t go nearly as swimmingly as the front office had hoped after forking over a four-year, $48 million dollar contract. While Hill’s contributions inside the locker room and on the defensive side of the ball have lived up to the hype, the offense has not, proving stupendously awful actually — think Andre Roberson bad.
Many like to point to below average three-point shooting percentages first and foremost, but keeping defenses honest from the perimeter hasn’t been the only nor biggest hole in Solo’s offense. Rather, being unable to convert efficiently inside the paint area and generally just hoisting enough shot attempts overall have allowed opponents to completely ignore Hill’s presence from every spot on the basketball court, basically utilizing their five defenders to guard Hill’s four teammates exclusively.
Case in point, Hill posted a 34.8% three-point percentage in his first year with the Pelicans. Not great, but not the worst. Among 72 players who exceeded 2000 minutes during the 2016-17 season, Hill placed 53rd. Here’s a list of some guys who finished worse — notice every single one of these names has sat on a small forward wish list or two: Tobias Harris, Wilson Chandler, Trevor Ariza, James Johnson, Dario Saric and Nicolas Batum. Some other big minute participants who shot for a lower percentage than Solo: James Harden, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Paul Millsap and Draymond Green.
You don’t have to exhibit above average marksmanship from the perimeter to be at least a respectable offensive threat — even in today’s small-ball, crazed world; however, you’ve got to be a factor elsewhere.
Two years ago, Hill was not.
For starters, Solo was one of the worst finishers inside the restricted area. In fact, out of the 244 players in the league who attempted 100 or more shots inside that area closest to the rim, Hill posted the eighth worst FG% (48.6% — 237th). Then from both the non-restricted and midrange areas, Hill failed to eclipse a 30% field goal percentage. Not surprisingly, Hill finished with a ridiculously low 38.3% FG% overall — exceeding only Marcus Smart’s 35.9% among players who surpassed 2000 minutes played.
And to top it all off, Hill had to be aware of his inability to put the ball through the hoop. Out of the 282 players who played at least 1000 minutes in the 2016-17 season, only nine players averaged fewer field goal attempts per 36 minutes and six of them were centers renowned for guarding the rim and crashing the glass. Hill averaged 0.4 blocks per game and 3.8 rebounds in 29.7 minutes a contest.
Talk about demoralizing and woeful production.
Before lamenting Dell Demps decision to sign Hill for the umpteenth time though, realize the former Pacer made a significantly larger impact in his final year with Indiana and looked to be on the verge of a potential breakout. Yes, Hill averaged 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds with a 57.9 three-point percentage against the Toronto Raptors in Round 1, but all of the positives didn’t occur only in the 2016 playoffs. Over the final three months of that regular season — after he re-entered the rotation, Hill shot 39.6 percent from deep in over 600 minutes of action. This, on top of the almost 200 minutes of the ridiculous outside shooting in the postseason. Also, Hill didn’t exhibit any finishing issues (a 65.0 FG% in the restricted area) and he proved to be a useful rebounder.
What motivated Hill to produce such a nice conclusion to his stay in Indiana? It’s not hard to imagine that perhaps a subpar 2014-15 season, an embarrassing 2015 Summer League and/or Larry Bird passing along a message that he would soon see Solo in the D-League did the trick.
Whatever the reason, Hill bounced back strongly and for a period of three months looked like a decent all around contributor, deserving of a contract much, much richer than that of minimum contract player.
Solomon Hill just wiped the entire Raptor backcourt off the face of the planet https://t.co/CmkOCZLLQq— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) May 2, 2016
Maybe a lost season following a disappointing one re-invigors the beast within — especially with Solomon Hill having just finished watching E’Twaun Moore put together a much better highlight reel at the small forward position than he from two years ago, currently hearing voices clamor for Alvin Gentry to start Nikola Mirotic at the three and Julius Randle, Anthony Davis and Mirotic ready to gobble up all of the power forward minutes.
If not, expect the trade rumors surrounding a replacement for Hill on the roster to increase in frequency as next season progresses. Its a make or miss league and we're long overdue on Solo making his fair share.