For Pacers fans, uncertainty might be the word of the day — every day — until the season starts. How will the new additions fit in? Can Solomon Hill log extended minutes in the NBA? Who willl Frank Vogel start?
Let’s start with that last question first.
With Paul George lost for the year and Lance Stephenson off to Charlotte, nobody expects the Pacers’ scoring attack to be pretty next season. But adding C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey were good moves for a desperate and weak offense, and Vogel may have to use them extensively to make up for the production loss on the perimeter.
While it is unclear who will actually get the starting minutes, it is assumed Miles will get the nod. The team will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for points, and the former Cavalier probably has the best chance to get the most of those of anyone in the wing rotation.
At 6’6″, Miles is suited to play shooting guard, but with his ability to score and experience defending wings, Vogel may play him at the 3 to start. If the coach goes this route, it would be as much about the dearth of small forwards on the roster as it is about the number of options in the back court.
For example, with scoring in mind, Vogel may try the trio of George Hill, Stuckey and Miles.
Or he could also start C.J. Watson.
This would not only confuse people by having two C.J.s on the court; it would give Vogel both (George) Hill and Watson in the back court — two guys who can run the offense and are familiar with the playbook. Going this route would embrace the fact that nobody in the franchise — Geroge Hill included — has ever viewed George Hill as a traditional point guard. With Watson there to handle some of the bring-the-ball-up duties, Hill would be free to be the aggressive attacker he stopped being last season. Despite his subpar 2013-14 campaign, he is now the team’s most dynamic perimeter player.
If the goal is to put points on the board, you of course also have Chris Copeland — who the fans would just love to see start. Maybe you have him and Miles spotting up all day behind the arc, while George Hill and David West milk the pick-and-pop game.
Then, you even have another fresh face in Damjan Rudez, a Croatian forward who has developed a nice shot in recent years. While he is certainly more suited to back up West (and may struggle for minutes if Luis Scola has a bounce-back year or Vogel ever gives Copeland minutes at the four), his presence just adds further flexibility — and uncertainty — to the lineup.
But even with all these more-experienced players int he mix, second-year Pacer forward Solomon Hill may have the chance to cement himself in Indiana’s rotation for years to come. Especially if Solo (let’s just keep calling him that) has a good preseason, this may be the most attractive option for Vogel.
First off, a Hill/Miles/Solo perimeter makes the most sense in terms of the players’ heights/physiques. And this combination should also give the team its best chance at remaining a top-tier defense. Because if Vogel goes with, for example, a Hill/Stuckey/Miles wing, he may be left with a lineup that struggles to score while it also gets overwhelmed on the other end.
Even if Solo comes off the bench, he is likely to play significantly more minutes than he did last year as a rookie. Solo could become Indiana’s sixth man, and after averaging only 8.1 minutes per game last season in 28 games, Hill should be happy with the playing time he gets.
Can he handle it?
We haven’t seen much of him in the pros, so first lets look at a scouting video of his game from before the 2013 draft, created by Mike Schmitz of Draft Express.
As for Solo’s rookie season, what can we actually make of it?
Not much unfortunately. He had a chance early on backing up Paul George, but he clearly had some trouble adjusting to big-league ball. He mostly played in garbage time from there on out, so what he did in college is still probably the game action we can analyze best.
His strengths include man-to-man defense, closing out on shooters, rebounding, penetrating, and shooting the long ball (most of the time). Solo also had pretty good court vision back at Arizona, which led to some pretty nice passes.
As for weaknesses, remember when I said he shot the long ball effectively most of the time? Yeah, he sometimes struggled as well. You really can’t complain much about his 39% from 3-point range during his last season in college, but some of his decisions when behind the arc were questionable, as seen in the video. Solo also isn’t the fastest guy, so you won’t see many crossovers or full-court run outs from him. His mid-range game was also sloppy.
With all this in mind, here are some things to take into account: (1) Solo has had the whole summer to get better, and (2) he should realize the opportunity he has in front of him, hopefully leading to inspired workouts/training.
Nobody is expecting greatness from Solo, but the opportunity he has now is not so different from the one both Paul George and Lance Stephenson got two years ago after Danny Granger went down.
When Granger got hurt, it gave George the shot he needed to take over a team like Granger did for so long. It forced George to mature and become a leader. Granger’s injury also made room for Lance to grow and develop as a player — something few thought was possible back in 2011-12 when he barely saw the floor.
I’m not suggesting Hill will take over this team, or rise to Stephenson’s heights.
But Larry Bird has noted how mature Solo is for his age, and the always-positive Vogel has said that he believes Solo can be a good defender in the NBA.
History repeats itself sometimes.
In this case, the two instances might only be set apart by a couple years, but Solomon Hill will never have this chance again, just like Stephenson did back when Larry Bird was his only advocate. If Solo works hard enough and has the right mind set, he has the chance to all but solidify future success for this organization.