The Indiana Pacers declined to pick up Solomon Hill’s fourth-year option Monday, leaving the former first-round pick from Arizona to become a free agent next summer.
Through three games this season, the third-year pro has only played two minutes, so the Pacers’ move doesn’t comes as a surprise. Hill’s role has been in sharp contrast to the one he played last season when he played in all 82 games and led the team in minute during the team’s Paul-George-less stretch, averaging 8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game at the shooting guard and small forward positions.
Indiana’s decision to forego another year of Hill also signals the end of its investment in him as a young developmental player, which, given the team’s need for another big wing player, says a lot about how quickly the team has soured on Solo since last season.
When the Pacers drafted Hill in 2013––one spot ahead of Tim Hardaway Jr., much to the chagrin of many Pacer fans––he was billed as the kind of low-ceiling, high-character player who was solid and smart enough to potentially contribute right away, even if he would never develop into a star. Hill got his chances early too, playing in 16 of Indiana’s first 21 games during the 2013-14 season.
That was in December. Hill wouldn’t play again until February, when he played in just one game before getting some garbage action down the stretch as that Pacers team was trying to stave off a total collapse. Any time the team has been fully healthy or functional, Hill hasn’t been able to crack Frank Vogel’s rotation, and when injuries or circumstances have brought him opportunities, he’s been a wildly unproductive player.
We delved deep into his issues during the summer, but here’s a quick sampling from last season’s extended action: Hill shot just 2.5 three-pointers per game despite making just 32.7 percent of them, graded out as one of the top-five least efficient shooters in the NBA according to Kirk Goldsberry, and had 20 percent of his inside shot attempts blocked last season, per 82games.com. Opponents even blocked 10 percent of his dunk attempts! It’s almost hard to understand.
Hill simply hasn’t looked comfortable in any role on the offensive end––with the ball or without it, spotting up or posting up, you name it. If he was Tony Allen, that would be one thing, but there’s only one Tony Allen, and even Memphis struggles to keep him on the court at a certain point. It’s simply difficult to score in today’s NBA when one of your five guys is a total offensive minus, and you’re not top-heavy with elite scoring like the 2011-14 Miami Heat or ongoing Oklahoma City Thunder teams.
Ironically, what did Hill in, and what does many underachieving first-round picks in, is the first-round price tag. He was due to make $2.3 million next season, a modest amount and typical rookie-scale deal, and one that might seem trivial given the impending rise in the salary cap. But even in that market, Hill simply isn’t worth that kind of investment, especially since an increase in market prices doesn’t decrease the importance of cap flexibility. In theory, the Pacers might love to send Solo down to their shiny new NBADL team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants––just not at that price.
Based on Hill’s disappointing play the last couple seasons, though, as well his lack of playing time when the team needs depth at that position, Indiana seems content to move on from the Solomon Hill era. That move is probably for the best, because, barring a swerve in his development curve, Hill doesn’t look like an NBA player.
Unfortunately, that’s how it goes most of the time draft picks in the 20s; it’s just too bad they couldn’t have turned him into a first-round pick like Hardaway Jr.