Two years ago, I was interviewing Washington State (now OKC Thunder) swingman Kyle Weaver for the Pac-10 part of Dime’s annual Player’s Ball NCAA preview when Weaver briefly mentioned Jordan Hill, predicting the Arizona big man would have a big sophomore season. I’d seen Hill play before, and wondered exactly what Weaver saw in this kid who averaged just four points and four boards the year before.
Two years later, Hill put up 18 points, 11 boards and almost two blocks per game for the Wildcats, and left school early as a Top-5 NBA Draft prospect in just about everyone’s book.
How did that happen? Back then, Hill didn’t seem like anything more than a raw talent, an energy guy with NBA size (6-10, 230) but probably not NBA skills. Today, he’s drawing varied comparisons to some of the League’s top scoring big men, from Chris Bosh to Amar’e Stoudemire. And seeing as Hill didn’t start playing organized ball until the ninth grade, he presumably still has a lot of room to grow.
As a scorer, Hill’s mid-range J is solid — one of the Dime crew watched part of a Hill workout in Chicago last week and said he didn’t miss a jumper in about 20 minutes of work — he’s got a few post moves, and he’s a strong finisher at/above the rim. Then there’s the rebounding. Hill pulled down 22 boards against UAB last season, one of six games where he record 15 or more rebounds. But while he’s a bundle of energy and plays a power game, Hill isn’t actually that great of an athlete. He has a 35-inch vertical, but his agility drill score in the Chicago pre-draft camp was last-place overall, and his 11 bench-press reps at 185 pounds was fewer than guards like Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Jodie Meeks.
He’s not exactly a “project,” but the team that gets Hill should be patient and not expect immediate impact. He’s kind of in that Chris Wilcox mold where the right coach and system could turn him into a beast, but the wrong situation could be the recipe for a bust. Out of all the Top-10 prospects in this year’s class, Hill might have the highest “bust” potential, right up there with Rubio and Hasheem Thabeet.
So where does he fit? Hill was Top-5 player all year long, but since pre-draft workouts and the drafting order have come into effect, he’s now slotted to go anywhere from 3rd to 10th overall. The Thunder (#3) need a big man and can afford to add a raw talent to their young core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, but I think they’re going to look at the backcourt with their pick, whether it’s James Harden or Ricky Rubio. The Kings (#4) have some young bigs they want to develop in Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes (and Shelden Williams, I guess), but are also desperate for toughness and defense wherever they can get it. Still, I see them going with a guard as well, specifically a point guard like Rubio or Brandon Jennings. A lot of people have Hill going to the Wizards (#5), and there’s even a rumor that Dallas will try trading into that spot because they love Hill.
If Hill doesn’t go fifth to whoever ends up with that pick on Draft Night, I think he’ll drop to the Bucks at 10. Minnesota (#6), New York (#8) and Toronto (#9) are focused on improving their backcourt/wings, and although the Warriors (#7) always need frontocurt help and Hill would fit into their system, I don’t see them passing up a point guard when there’s so many good ones available at that spot. Milwaukee is looking for a true PF — Charlie Villanueva could walk in free agency, plus he’s not your ideal starting four unless you’re playing that Orlando style and he’s your Rashard Lewis — and they don’t have big expectations to win or produce now. In that environment, Hill can grow at a safe pace and realize his potential without much pressure.
Who do you think has the highest risk/reward potential in this year’s Draft?