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This Hill has Eyes

A look at the fleeting acquisition and dismissal of recent Knicks’ top draft Pick Jordan Hill

By: Orange and Blue

March 26, 2010

 

 

What if I were to tell you that the Knicks selection of Jordan Hill with the 8th pick in the 2009 draft, made plenty of prospective sense. With a front-court in the midst of uncertainty from the power forward to center position (Eddy Curry’s weight and injuries, trade scenarios to expedite Jared Jefferies’ contract, and David Lee’s expiring contract status) Hill’s acquisition in a point guard heavy draft was an attempt to fill a prospective void. Hill’s acquisition, was also intended to provide the Knicks with a young, athletic, mobile forward with a jump shop suited to coach D’Antoni’s style of play. In that context, the Knicks selected Hill. Yet, Hills selection transpired without much ado,  as Knicks’ fans forlorning was cast at some of the draft’s more highly touted names- such as Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings to name but a few.

 

 

Despite possessing a 6’10” frame with length and athleticism along with a developing basketball skill set, Hill would mostly occupy a position  on the Knicks’ bench. Hill would play in less than half of the team’s games (24/53 games played), while experiments with other Knicks’ front court players were carried out with negligible degrees of success- e.g., Milicic’s, Curry’s and Benders tryouts with the team’s front court rotation. Only two draft lottery players would average less minutes per game than Jordan Hill.[1] Those two players were cast on teams that have considerable depth in the position in which they were drafted or have been in races for playoff positioning for most of the season.[2] Hill, and his fellow rookie Tony Douglas, found themselves in a similar scenario as the Knicks turned around an awful October/November start into a December and early January run that placed the team within reach of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But as January progressed and losses became more frequent and the Knicks began to slide from the playoff race, Hill continued to occupy a spot near the end of the Knicks’ bench. On February 18, 2010 Hill’s tenure with the Knicks ended as he became included in a three team trade involving the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings. That trade sent Hill and Jared Jefferies to Houston for the expiring contract of Tracy McGrady.

Hill’s quite return to the Garden[3], nevertheless, ushered in controversy when a matter of fact statement by the rookie was taken out of context by a New York beat writer [4] and then posed to Hill’s former coach Mike D’Antoni. Hill answered a question posed to him by the Houston Chronicle that addressed his limited playing time with the Knicks. [5] That statement became interpreted by the New York Post’s writer as an admission by Hill that his former Coach D’Antoni had buried him on the bench. Other New York reporters posed that statement to Mike D’Antoni as a statement by Hill that D’Antoni did not like to play rookies. To that question coach D’Antoni answered with a statement [6] that  was taken as a slight against Hill and which became a topic of conversation amongst columnist and Knicks fans. Despite a good offensive night by the Knicks, Hill’s Rockets exited the Garden with a 116-112 victory. Hill’s performance off the Rockets Bench helped spark a 2nd quarter Rally in which Hill scored 7 points on a combination of put backs, jumpers and free throws. In 25 minutes of play, Hill would finish the game with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists that would include a timely put back late in the fourth quarter to keep the Rockets in the game.

Prior to returning to New York, Hill was progressing in his NBA development by taking the opportunities presented to him by the Rockets. Namely, Hill responded well to coach, Rick Adelman’s, willingness to allot greater playing time to the rookie. Although Hill did not play during his first several games with the Rockets and played limited minutes for a span of 4 games, a productive game (in a loss against the Pistons), ushered in an increase in playing time to an average of over twenty minutes per game. During those games in which Hill was alloted at or above twenty minutes of playig time, including Hill’s return to NY, the rookie’s production increased to an average of 10.17 points, 6.83 rebounds per game. [7]

For a player with the physical tools upside and emerging basketball skill set that Jordan Hill provided to a Knicks team with uncertainty in the front court, Hills reception in New York was lukewarm at best and hostile, if not resentful, at worst. Hills time in New York appeared vilified at times by sports coverage and fan desperation for a turning of a page on two years worth of waiting for a 2010 summer spending spree. With a semi-promised future of All-Star impact signings and forlorning for a franchise resurrection, Hill’s development in New York would not suffice when compared with the loftier future expectations of Knicks fandom and punditry. That atmosphere contributed to fan perception of Jordan Hill as either a bust or project not worthy of the New York Minute.

Nevertheless a quick summary of Hill’s overall statistical production suggest that he might have been deserving of some playing while with the Knicks. Specifically when compared to current Knicks’ All Star Center/Forward, David Lee, Jordan Hill’s rookie production per 36 minutes holds up well against Lee’s production as a rookie per 36 minutes played. [8] Hills production during his recent stint of games in which he was allotted at least 20 minutes of playing time (~24 mpg on average) also compares favorably with David Lee’s production during his 2nd year in which Lee averaged about 30 minutes of playing time in 58 games- with 12 starts. [9] Lastly Hill’s overall production with the Rockets in 16 mpg per 12 games played also compares favorably with David Lee’s  16.9 mpg production in 67 games played with 14 starts during Lee’s rookie campaign. [10] Hill’s steady improvement during the course of his college basketball career with the Arizona, Wildcats, in a way even parallels, David Lee’s  improved play during the course of Lee’s NBA career with the Knicks. [11] In another curious parallel between Hill and Knicks’ players of yore, the former Knicks’ rookie once  returned from an ankle injury that slowed his mobility in order to help his Arizona Wildcats team compete against rival team.  [12]

Hill’s steady turn around with the Houston Rockets is not simply the result of his physical gifts, basketball skill set and upside, items which got him drafted by the Knicks. Rather, Hills emergence with the Rockets reflect more on the rookie’s inner stability, patience and ability to seize upon opportunities. Those attributes have carried Hill throughout the course of his life. For instance, the draft would not be the first time Jordan Hill had emerged as a relative basketball unknown, he was a surprise college recruit at Arizona University. Pre Draft coverage of Hill, revealed that he had only played organized basketball since the 9th grade and that He was discovered during play at an AAU tournament. Hill’s performance in that tournament drew attention to his upside and inspired Arizona’s coaching staff to offer Hill a scholarship. Hill seized that opportunity. As a freshman, Hill then seized an opportunity to increase his limited playing time when a team mate was suspended. Hill’s performances thereafter, secured him steady playing time going forward into his college basketball career. Once on the college hardwood Hill continued to increase his production, despite instability with Arizona’s coaching staff, which experienced turnover during every year Hill played with the Wildcats. [13] But Hills travails growing up in various locations from South Carolina, Ohio and Georgia, since his mother’s passing when Hill was three years of age, prepared him for the instability that would greet him on the college and later NBA Hardwood. [14] Hill had his eyes on the greater picture of developing his basketball skill set and availing himself of the opportunities before him as shown by his yearly development and emergence as a key player for the Wildcats.

With the Houston Rockets, Hill has been required to shed the patience with which he handled his situation in New York, in exchange for a more aggressive approach. His new coach recognizes the talent Hill brings to the Rockets but has implored Hill to play hard and not rest on his collegiate laurels or the talent that made the rookie a star at Arizona University. [15] But Adelman has also coupled his exhortations with the opportunity for Hill to play in the Rockets rotation [16] if he plays with the same level of aggression that Adelman is demanding of all his players. [17] Hill apparently absorbed coach Adelman’s insistence that he play hard, as he began to experience a breakthrough in his production, which started with a 12 points and 8 rebounds performance in a road loss against the Detroit Pistons. Hill has also taken to absorbing the advice given to him by team mates and coaching staff, who understand the learning curve Hill faces late in the NBA season but who also have recognized the importance of  unlocking what they see as Hill’s enormous potential. [18] With Jordan Hill, history appears to be repeating itself. An exile to a teams bench, was ended by a trade that sent him to Houston on February 18, 2010. An opportunity opened up for the rookie when Rockets reserve center, David Anderson was out of the rotation due to injury during a stretch of road games in which Hill would begin to show the Rockets the talent and ability that made him a high lottery pick. This Hill has eyes for the opportunities that have opened up before him. Will he show in the years to come the desire to advance his game and follow in the steps of a former Knicks’ All Star team mate.

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Footnotes

[1] Only the Charlotte Bobcats, Guard, Gerald Henderson (7.9 mpg) and the Phoenix Suns, Forward, Earl Clark (7.7 mpg) played less time per game than Jordan Hill.

[2] Charlotte Bobcats (35-34, 7th seed in Eastern Conference Playoff Race) Guard Rotation Includes Stephen Jackson (~40 mpg), Raymond Felton (~33 mpg) and D.J. Augustin (~18mpg); Phoenix Suns (44-26 5th in Western Conference Playoff Race) Center/Power Forward rotation includes Amar’e Stoudemire (~35 mpg), Channing Frye (~27 mpg), Robin Lopez (~19 mpg); Louis Amundson (~ 14 mpg).

[3] Howard Beck, Trying to Do His part, McGrady Falls Short (New York Times, March 21, 2010)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/sports/basketball/22knicks.html

[4] See March Berman, Jordan Hill: D’Antoni buried me on Knicks’ bench (New York Post, March 23, 2010)

http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/knicks/hill_an_buried_me_on_bench_ZMBe5CQXRG1GiFLiCc4TnO

[5] “Coach D’Antoni, he relies on his veterans more than rookies[.] He feels like his rookies need to learn more their first year so they could get everything down pat. I understood. I just wanted to wait patiently until my time was coming.”

Jonathan Feigen, Hill faces former team for the first time (Houston Chronicle, March 20, 2010)

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/6923169.html

[6] “I don’t like to play ‘bad’ rookies[.] I like to play ‘good’ rookies.”

Frank Isola, Mike D’Antoni defends policy with playing rookies, takes shot at Jordan Hill, praises Toney Douglas (New York Daily News, March 22, 2010)

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/knicks/2010/03/22/2010-03-22_mike_defends_rookie_record.html

 

[7] Table 1 Jordan Hill Production with Houston Rockets when playing over 20 Minutes

MPG

FGM-A

FTM-A

Off.

Rbd.

Def. Rbd.

Tot. Rbd

Ast.

Stl.

Blks.

TO

Pf

PPG

23

5-9

2-2

2

6

8

1

0

0

0

2

12

27

4-5

3-4

4

4

8

2

0

0

0

3

11

21

2-6

1-2

4

0

4

0

1

0

1

2

5

20

3-3

3-4

4

5

9

0

0

0

2

5

9

27

5-11

1-3

1

6

7

0

0

5

0

2

11

25

4-8

5-5

3

2

5

3

0

0

1

3

13

Avg.

23.83

54.76 Fg%

75.00 Ft%

3.0

3.83

6.83

1.0

0.17

0.83

0.67

2.84

10.17

 

[8] Comparative First Year Statistical Production Jordan Hill and David Lee, (Courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com)

JORDAN HILL (PER 36 Minutes: 2009-10 NBA Rookie Season with NY and Houston)

Season

Age

Tm

G

GS

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

FT

FTA

FT%

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

2009-10

22

TOT

36

0

444

5.4

11.6

.462

3.0

4.1

.725

4.5

5.2

9.7

1.2

0.9

1.1

1.6

5.2

13.7

2009-10

22

NYK

24

0

252

5.9

13.1

.446

2.1

3.0

.714

4.6

4.1

8.7

1.0

1.4

1.3

1.7

5.3

13.9

2009-10

22

HOU

12

0

192

4.7

9.6

.490

4.1

5.6

.733

4.5

6.6

11.1

1.5

0.2

0.9

1.5

5.1

13.5

Career

36

0

444

5.4

11.6

.462

3.0

4.1

.725

4.5

5.2

9.7

1.2

0.9

1.1

1.6

5.2

13.7

 

DAVID LEE (PER 36 MINUTES: 2005-06  NBA Rookie Season and 2006-2007 Season with NY)

Season

Age

Tm

G

GS

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

FT

FTA

FT%

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

2005-06

22

NYK

67

14

1129

4.4

7.3

.596

2.3

3.9

.577

3.5

6.2

9.7

1.4

1.0

0.6

1.6

4.0

11.

 

[9] Compare Chart in Footnote 7 with David Lee’s 2006-07, 2nd year production per 29.8 mpg.

Season

Age

Tm

G

GS

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

FT

FTA

FT%

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

2005-06

22

NYK

67

14

16.9

2.0

3.4

.596

1.1

1.8

.577

1.6

2.9

4.5

0.6

0.4

0.3

0.8

1.9

5.1

2006-07

23

NYK

58

12

29.8

4.1

6.9

.600

2.4

3.0

.815

3.4

7.0

10.4

1.8

0.8

0.4

1.6

2.7

10.7

 

[10] Compare David Lee’s production in 2005-2006 in 16.9 minutes of playing time- see chart 9 above- with Jordan’s Hill’s production per 16 minutes per game played with Houston.

 

SEASON AVERAGES – Jordan Hill

Season

Team

G

GS

MPG

FG%

FT%

OFF

DEF

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

TO

PF

PPG

09-10

NYK

24

0

10.5

0.446

0.714

1.3

1.2

2.5

0.3

0.4

0.4

0.5

1.5

4.0

09-10

HOU

12

0

16.0

0.490

0.733

2.0

2.9

4.9

0.7

0.1

0.4

0.7

2.2

6.0

09-10

36

0

12.3

0.462

0.725

1.6

1.8

3.3

0.4

0.3

0.4

0.6

1.8

4.7

Career

 

36

0

12.3

0.462

0.725

1.6

1.8

3.3

0.4

0.3

0.4

0.6

1.8

4.7

 

[11] Jordan Hill College Statistics at Arizona University

(Courtesy of DX Express http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jordan-Hill-1222/stats/)

Basic Statistics

Year

Team

GP

Min

Pts

FG

FGA

FG%

2Pt

2PtA

2P%

FTM

FTA

FT%

Off

Def

TOT

Asts

Stls

Blks

TOs

PFs

2006/07

Arizona

29

14.1

4.7

2.0

3.1

65.2

2.0

3.1

65.2

0.7

1.6

44.7

1.6

2.5

4.1

0.1

0.2

0.9

0.7

1.8

2007/08

Arizona

34

29.4

13.2

5.4

8.7

62.0

5.4

8.7

62.0

2.4

3.5

68.3

2.5

5.5

7.9

0.8

0.5

1.6

2.1

3.1

2008/09

Arizona

34

35.7

18.3

7.4

13.8

53.7

7.4

13.8

53.7

3.4

5.3

65.4

4.2

6.8

11.0

1.5

0.9

1.7

2.9

3.0

 

[12] Jonathan Givony, “I Got Heart”

(Interview with Jordan Hill, May 26, 2009- http://www.draftexpress.com/article/Jordan-Hill-I-Got-Heart-3229/)

 

[13] Jonathan Givony, “Arizona’s Hill continues to develop into prize prospect”

(NBA.com May 25, 2009- http://www.nba.com/2009/news/features/05/25/draft.hill/index.html)

See also, Draftexpress.com- Jordan Hill, Player Profile – http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jordan-Hill-1222/

 

[14] Ibid.

 

[15] Jeffrey Martin, “Adelman discusses Hill’s pros and, cons”

(March 11, 2010 – Houston Chronicles – http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/6909584.html)

 

[16] Jeffrey Martin, “Choices, choices for Adelman – Rocket’s gain depth with Hill’s emergence, return of Ariza, Lowry”

(Houston Chronicle, March 12, 2010 – http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/6909589.html)

 

[17] Jonathan Feigen, “Anderson ready to return to court”

(Houston Chronicle, March 12, 2010 – http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/6911406.html)

 

[18] Jonathan Feigen, “Rocket’s Hill shows promise in short time with team”

(Houston Chronicle, March 10, 2010 – http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/bk/bkn/6907462.html)

 

 

 

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