Hilton Armstrong NBA Draft Scouting Report

Hilton Armstrong NBA Draft Scouting Report
May 24, 2006, 03:48 pm
Hilton Armstrong has a good set of physical attributes to play PF/C in the NBA, possessing a great combination of height, length, and athleticism. Armstrong is about 6’11 with a massive wingspan to boot. For a big man, he’s very quick off the ground, both on his first and second jump. He has the ability to run the floor well for a big man, is very mobile on both ends of the floor, and is coordinated in all his movements.

Offensively, Armstrong has a very versatile set of skills, though they were not always on display in UConn’s offense, where Armstrong often played a small role in regards to scoring. When Armstrong was given the opportunity, he showed a potent inside-out game with no major weaknesses to speak of.

Armstrong’s most NBA-ready offensive skill is his mid to long range jumper, which he can consistently hit from up to 16-18 feet away from the basket. His shot has good form, a high release point, and he gets good elevation, which along with his height and length, makes the shot very difficult to block. In the right situation, Armstrong could have a major offensive impact with his jump shot in his rookie year, similar to how Knicks rookie Channing Frye did this past season.

Armstrong’s perimeter skills don’t stop at his jump shot, as he also possesses a respectable off-the-dribble game to complement his shot, making him tough to defend on the perimeter. Using the threat of his jump shot, Armstrong is good at taking his man off the dribble to the right, and has enough ball-handling ability to get to the basket without getting in trouble. He finishes well at the basket, possessing good body control when he makes contact with a defender. He also uses the glass and rim very well, understanding how and when to use the glass or go reverse on a lay-up.

Armstrong didn’t show much of a low-post game until his senior year, but has made outstanding progress over the course of the season, now possessing a respectable array of moves in the post, which he converts with very good efficiency. Armstrong’s most reliable move in the post is a jump-hook across the lane, which with his length, is extremely hard to contest. He also has a nice dropstep towards the baseline, which he can finish with a jam, a lay-in, or a reverse lay-in. He also uses fakes well, doing so to either get his man off his feet or by faking one way and going the other. He has a very nice touch around the rim, shooting 61% from the field on the year, albeit on not a very large number of shot attempts.

Armstrong doesn’t get many opportunities to use his passing abilities, but he shows good court vision and awareness from both the low and high post, recognizing double teams and making strong, crisp passes on kick-outs to the three-point line.

Defensively, Armstrong is most well-known for his weakside shot-blocking, which was his greatest contribution to UConn this season. Armstrong averaged 3.1 blocks in 27.7 minutes for the Big East powerhouse, doing so against great competition, while still having the potential to have done even more. Armstrong combines his length and athleticism with impeccable timing to swat away shots both near and away from the basket. On the low block, when focused, Armstrong quickly moves from the weakside to contest or block shots near the basket, both against opponents slashing and posting up. When he exerts himself, Armstrong has a very strong presence near the basket, having the ability to alter every shot an opponent takes in the lane.

Armstrong’s ability to block shots is magnified even further because of his excellent mobility, which allows him to impact the game both near the basket and on the perimeter. When Armstrong is pulled out to the perimeter to defend his man, he has the ability to pick up slashers entering from the top of the key, following them in their route to the basket, and using his length, athleticism, and timing to block their shot from behind. He has this same ability when his own man gets past him on the perimeter, having an excellent chance to recover with a block from behind. He also can be utilized to step up and double team on the perimeter, as he can quickly recover back to his own man in the post.

In terms of man-to-man defense, Armstrong is adequate on the perimeter, possessing decent lateral quickness for a big man, a good fundamental base, and when all else fails, the ability to recover with a block from behind if his man gets past him. In the post, Armstrong has a solid fundamental base, and great length, which he can use to alter shots and poke at the ball. When strength is not an issue, Armstrong does well to contain his man in the post, often being able to block his man one-on-one if he goes at him. He understands how to use his body, arms, and legs to man up with his opponent. With his excellent length and athleticism, Armstrong is also very good at fronting the post.

Because of his length and athleticism, Armstrong has the ability to get rebounds from out of position, and also can track down long rebounds with his mobility. Overall, Armstrong is a decent rebounder, usually being in good position on the defensive end, and usually boxing out his man.

Armstrong had a small role in Connecticut’s offense, indicating that he’s a coachable player. He often is the one setting picks on the perimeter, not having his number called very often. Because of the extremely high talent level on his team, his skills were often underutilized on the offensive end. He is young for a senior, only 21 years old, and just really began to tap into potential in this his senior year. He made major strides in his game in this one season, still being fairly raw with plenty of room to improve.

Armstrong has some physical weaknesses, most notably with his strength, which affects many aspects of his game. He is lacking in both upper and lower body strength, and although he certainly has room to add more bulk, he is somewhat limited by a narrow upper frame for someone his size. This lack of strength affects his post defense, post offense, and rebounding especially.

Armstrong has enough ball-handling ability to take a few straight dribbles to the basket with his right hand from free-throw line extended, but he could use more work on his ball-handling if he intends to expand his face-up dribble-drive game. Armstrong can't really create with his dribble, and only gets occasional opportunities to drive because of the threat of his jump shot.

Armstrong’s post game is inconsistent in overall productivity, partly due to his limited role in UConn’s offense, but also partly due to a lack of assertiveness in calling for the ball in the post. Due to his strength, Armstrong also can have trouble establishing position against stronger opponents, or in getting off his moves. He relies mostly on finesse moves, and won’t be able to use any power moves in the NBA without adding more strength.

Armstrong’s man-to-man defense in the post is the area that will give him the most problems in the NBA if he does not add some more strength. He had some problems in the NCAA against stronger opponents, not being able to contain them and often being out-battled for position on the block. This would be magnified even further in the very physical pro game.

In terms of weakside defense, Armstrong has a lot of room to improve, mostly in his approach to the game. While Armstrong posted great shot blocking numbers in his senior year, he had the ability to have done much more. Armstrong has a tendency to be very tentative on the defensive end, sometimes watching opposing players go by, or not going out of his way to contest shots that are within his range. He often looks complacent, and rarely shows the aggressiveness needed to have the impact he is capable of. Armstrong also sometimes loses focus and fails to make all of the rotations, sometimes even looking completely lost on the defensive end. To fully make use of his abilities, he needs to play with greater tenacity and focus for every second he’s on the floor.

Armstrong’s lack of tenacity carries over to rebounding, where he is often reluctant to mix it up, many times standing and watching as others battle for rebounds. This reluctance could in part be due to a lack of strength, and is something that can definitely be improved upon.

Most of Armstrong’s weaknesses come from either a lack of physical strength or a lack of consistent mental toughness, both of which are within his capacity to fix. At times, Armstrong can be very focused and energetic, but at others he looks very tentative and unassertive. He sometimes looks sluggish running the floor and going through the motions on either end of the court, so his conditioning may need a little work. But that could also be attributed to the lack of consistent focus and concentration.

As a high school player, Armstrong was largely considered a mid-major caliber recruit, garnering offers from schools such as LaSalle, Hartford, Canisius, and Niagara before eventually settling on UConn. Coach Jim Calhoun saw something special in him, and things eventually worked well for both parties. The two still enjoy a special relationship, with Calhoun half-jokingly saying that he “misses” having him by his side on the bench when he’s in the game. Armstrong is the definition of a late bloomer, standing 6 feet 2 inches when he began high school, and growing 7 inches by his senior year and then another 2 inches since then. He played just over a thousand minutes in his first three years at UConn, peaking at 12.4 minutes per game as a junior while scoring 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds. With Emeka Okafor, Charlie Villanueva and others out of the picture, Armstrong finally exploded onto the national scene as a senior, averaging a discreet 10 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 28 minutes on what was still an incredibly stacked team, but showing tremendous upside throughout the year. Still 6 months away from turning 22, Armstrong is younger than many juniors in this draft.

Armstrong should be able to contribute considerably to the right team in his rookie year, and he also has the possibility to vastly improve on his already solid game. Because Armstrong didn’t get many minutes until his senior year, considering how much he improved in that one year, and because he is so young for his class, he still has a lot more upside to build on. Armstrong immediately needs to add some more bulk to his frame, which should instantly improve many aspects of his game.

Armstrong’s skillset and current situation are remarkably similar to Channing Frye’s at this time last year. Frye also had an extremely versatile skillset on both ends of the floor that was not fully utilized at Arizona, where he played a small role in favor of more prolific scorers, just as Armstrong did at UConn. Frye had similar weaknesses, both with his lack of strength and his sub-par rebounding, due in part to both his strength and his unwillingness to consistently mix it up inside. Frye bulked up considerably in the offseason, adding a reported 10-20 pounds of weight, something Armstrong absolutely needs to do. Armstrong will also be able to ride his mid-range jump shot as the rest of his game develops, just as Frye did for most of his rookie season.

Father Hilton Sr. led Division II in FG% and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, then in the ABA.

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