Don’t write off Jordan Hill yet

By: 02.17.10  •  10 Comments

Jordan Hill (photo. Nicky Woo)

By now you don’t need a Clyde Frazier pimp poem to tell you the Knicks probably wish they would have drafted Brandon Jennings — or Terrence Williams, or Tyler Hansbrough, or Ty Lawson — over Jordan Hill in last year’s NBA Draft.

Two-thirds of the way through his rookie year, Hill has played in less than half of New York’s games, and hasn’t done much (4.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg) when he does see the court. The 6-10 power forward out of Arizona appears every bit like just another left-too-early Draft bust. It doesn’t help that second-round picks and so-called “undersized” DeJuan Blair (Spurs), Dante Cunningham (Blazers) and Jon Brockman (Kings) are making bigger impacts on their respective teams at the same position as Hill. And the fact that the Knicks are reportedly close to trading their Top-10 pick in an effort to get T-Mac‘s expiring contract could be taken as just another sign that NY realizes it made a mistake.

But no matter what happens between now and the trade deadline, I wouldn’t write off Hill just yet.

Unlike a lot of players with whom you might be tempted compare him — Kwame Brown, Brandan Wright, Stromile Swift, etc. — Hill came into the League as more of a proven commodity than a ball of blind potential. In his junior year at Arizona he was good for 18 points, 11 boards and two blocks per game in a talent-heavy Pac-10; it’s not like Hill came straight out of high school or was a one-and-done who showed mere flashes of talent. He has a solid jump shot for a big man and a couple post moves, and he’s an energetic rebounder/defender. Considering Hill only started playing organized basketball in the ninth grade, not only does he have room to grow, he’s shown that he’s willing and able to learn.

Going into last year’s Draft, I wrote this about Hill:

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 (Ricky) Rubio and Hasheem Thabeet.

In our increasingly impatient sports climate, Hill is already being slapped with that “bust” label. But should he land in Houston, it could be the best thing to happen for his career. He’ll be able to work with a good coach in Rick Adelman who has already helped mold two PF’s with less natural talent than Hill — Luis Scola and Carl Landry — into borderline All-Stars. With Scola and Chuck Hayes in the last year of their contracts, and Landry only signed through 2011, playing time for Hill could open up sooner than expected in Houston. And if Yao Ming returns to anywhere near his All-NBA form, Hill would be able to spend his formative years in a low-pressure situation where his primary role is being an enforcer for Yao.

The Rockets seem willing to take on just about anybody to get rid of T-Mac’s contract, but a few years down the line, they could be looking at Jordan Hill as the steal of the 2010 trade deadline.

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