So what do you think of Solomon Hill now?
To answer that question honestly, you first have to admit how you reacted on draft night when the Indiana Pacers surprised the room (and by room, I mean any room in which any one person was paying attention to the NBA draft) by selecting Hill with the No. 25 pick in the first round of the draft.
My "room" was an SFO airport gate where I was delaying boarding a plane home as long as possible to see the Pacers pick. With no wi-fi on the pending flight I was stunned and craving more information when I saw Solomon Hill's name. I pulled up a quick snap shot of his career and then was left with my thoughts for the flight.
Point guard Isaiah Canaan was available and the Pacers needed a point guard, why didn't they take him? Pretty simple answer in hindsight. The Pacers are all in this year and relying on a rookie back-up point guard wouldn't help the immediate goals of the franchise. As Larry Bird would say later, the Pacers weren't looking to fill immediate needs with the draft. They used the free agent market for that purpose.
As for Hill, why another wing player that isn't particularly athletic by NBA standards and played more of a physical, power forward role in college? Tim Hardaway, Jr. was still on the board. Why not get a prospect who can come off the bench firing shots with time to develop into a reserve scoring option for the next year and beyond?
Turns out, the Pacers liked Hill because he is a good fit for the organization and current roster. All early indications point to a system guy, a defensive-minded, hard-worker who fits the impressive culture nurtured by Frank Vogel since taking over head coaching duties.
As time passed after the pick and we learned more about Hill, the pick and fit started making more and more sense. Turns out the rook was no stranger to wearing blue and gold, despite the blue and red colors he wore in games at Arizona.
The Wildcats coach, Sean Miller awards a gold practice jersey each week to the player who performs the best in practice the past week. Drills of all kinds and scrimmages are charted to determine the top performer each week. Hill was often seen wearing the gold jersey throughout his career, including during the team's NCAA appearance last March.
Then Hill went to Orlando for summer league and made a smooth transition to playing with other pros. He seemed completely comfortable on the floor, showed some offensive skills along with a defensive edge. He impressed with his lack of pressing to impress by forcing things, instead letting the game come to him and making plays when the opportunity arose.
Pacers assistant Dan Burke led the Summer Pacers and discussed the rookie's effort in Orlando with Grady and Big Joe. Burke is not one to pump a guy up with false praise, so to hear his praise and more importantly, the type of praise he offered, really raised an eyebrow. After talking about Hill learning how the Pacers do things and staying late to help clean up the locker room, Burke hit on how Hill impressed him on the court.
He's got this quiet confidence about him. When he's putting the ball on the floor and probing the defense, it looks like everything is coming slow motion to him, just very smooth. And he's really a student of the game. You can tell he's been well coached. Maybe it's the four years, spending four years combined with good coaching is a huge plus, obviously.
But he'll come to the bench and he'll say, "Guys they're doubling the post on the second dribble. Hey guys, they're switching on the back side on that pick the picker action." He sees just about everything and he communicates it and to hear that from a rookie, it gets you excited. When we get into October against some of our vets, I'll be curious to see how he stands out. As far as his approach to being ready and, I think you already said it, his seriousness, I think he's going to be a tremendous addition to our team.
After hearing that a breakdown from Burke, my curiosity about the pick went away. I'm not expecting Hill to make an impact this season, but if they need some short-term relief in the playing rotation I'm confident Hill will be ready to lend a hand. His new teammates have been singing his praises as well this week, with both Paul George and Roy Hibbert saying he would surprise the league this year.
We shall see about that as training camp and preseason game play out. But back to the original question: Compared to how you reacted on draft night, how do you feel now about the Pacers drafting Solomon Hill?