Another unsung rookie, Hill made a name for himself with a solid, but inefficient rookie season in San Antonio. After having a hard time impressing with his play last summer at the Las Vegas Summer League and Rocky Mountain Revue last year, Hill looked very solid this week aside from one poor showing against the staunch defense of Jerryd Bayless, Pooh Jeter, and the Portland Trailblazers.
A solid athlete with a ridiculous 6-9 wingspan, Hill primarily functioned as a point guard for the Spurs, but also spent some possessions working off the ball. A dominant scorer at IUPUI, Hill still appears to be adjusting to playing the point. More than quick enough to get to the where he wants to go on the floor against most defenders in this setting, Hill did a very good job creating offensive for himself from the inside and out, but didnt always look very comfortable distributing the ball, especially at full speed in transition. He made a handful of smart passes in half court sets, mostly when running the pick and roll, but for every good decision Hill made, he seemed to make a poor one shortly after.
Many of Hills problems came when he was either making a tough pass at a full sprint of when he was surveying the lane after turning the corner off the dribble. More often than not, these are situations in which Hill would normally look to score, which was likely his biggest issue here. Sometimes driving at the rim from bad angles, Hill seemed to have an especially hard time with his decision-making when he was forced towards the baseline. Stuck in no-mans land, Hill still has a lot to learn about distributing the ball, but his scoring ability, length, and attitude make him a promising player for the Spurs both this year and down the road.
Much of that promise manifested itself around the rim in a game against the New Orleans Hornets where Hill used an Ian Mahinmi screen to free himself for a back door alley-oop pass that he effortlessly flushed with two hands on his first touch. On a subsequent possession, he was able to clear his defenders shoulder on the pick and roll before rushing to the rim for an impressive one-handed slam. Though he added to his highlight reel with those plays, the more important development Hill has made lies in his physical assertiveness at the rim. He struggled to finish at the rim last season, and still does at times, but he got to the line at a fantastic rate here in Vegas due to his willingness to take contact at the rim. While he doesnt make things look as easy as Jerryd Bayless, hes beginning to complement his smooth finishing ability with some stronger finishes as well.
Though Hill definitely showed some good things when he was in attack mode, his perimeter arsenal is still a work in progress. Able to get to where he wants to go on the court against many players hes matched up with, Hills lack of catch and shoot ability isnt a major concern, but it will limit him in some ways moving forward. With Tony Parker running the show for the most part and a number of other potential ball handlers to compete with, it would be nice to see Hill develop a more reliable three point stroke to be a better option playing off the ball. If nothing else, itll give him a little more room to operate when looking to pass off of his drives and open up more space for the solid midrange jumper he showed here.
Defensively, Hill had a solid week, but had his share of troubles. Often matched up with the opposing teams point guard, Hill found himself at a disadvantage at times. Darren Collison and Pooh Jeter both gave him some problems, especially Jeter, who kept him perpetually off-balance when the two were matched up one-on-one. In contrast, Hill was the only player able to slow down Marcus Williams (UConn). A competent defender who has some trouble getting around screens, Hill is the type of player that can be successful in a well run system like the one the Spurs implement. Hes going to have problems in certain matchups, but hes more than capable of playing his many into his help side defender and not taking too many unnecessary risks. His length actually made him look a bit better against opposing shooting guards, since he had an easier time keeping up with them, and gives him the ability to close out shooters more effectively than the average player his size.
Though he finished with an even assist-to-turnover ratio and didnt blow anyone away with his shooting, this week offered a nice opportunity to see Hill playing out of his NBA role. With clearly defined weaknesses and some nice tools to work with, the IUPUI product is a player to keep an eye on this season. His ability to run the point off the bench for San Antonio may be a point of interest during their probable run deep into the playoffs.