Can Hill help fill them?
He averaged just 1.7 points in 8.1 minutes per contest during the 2013-14 season. The 6'7", 225-lb. Hill is expected to take on a bigger role in 2014-15 with George sidelined and Croatian shooter Damjan Rudez just a rookie. Even though Chris Copeland should be a bigger factor at the 3-spot for Indy, the team needs Hill to exceed expectations in order for it to contend.
In spite of Hill's difficulties last season, he took it all in stride. He was even sent down to the Pacers' D-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, where he averaged 17 points and 3.5 rebounds in two late Dec. 2013 games, per The Indianapolis Star's Michael Pointer.
Surprisingly, Hill told Pointer on July 3 he regretted not spending more time in the D-League:
I should have just stayed down there. I had to learn nothing revolves around me. If I don't play, and the team got the win, that's fine. There's always a next game. I would have stayed down there and licked my wounds. I let myself down and the Pacers down as well.
The D-League is there for you to get experience and (getting sent there) is an experience in its own. It's not just about playing or what you're doing on the court. There's going to be real-life situations and you have to deal with that. I adapted the wrong way.
Well, nobody could have foreseen George's injury. No doubt about it, that was a big loss, but it also presents Solomon Hill a chance to shine and prove what he's really made of.
A Look Back at Solomon Hill's Rookie Year
The Indiana Pacers drafted Solomon Hill with the 23rd overall pick out of the University of Arizona in 2013. According to 1070TheFan.com's Conrad Brunner, Hill saw action with the Arizona Wildcats as an undersized power forward who shot 39 percent from three-point range in his last two years.
The small forward impressed in Summer League play, averaging 12.5 points while hitting 10-of-18 three-point field goals. He put it all together in the second game, scoring 22 points while hitting all four three-pointers, grabbing nine rebounds and passing four assists. He got a reality check in preseason play, however, averaging just 1.9 points on 20 percent shooting.
Still, he played well enough in practice to earn a spot in the playing rotation while Danny Granger was rehabilitating his knee. He played in nine of his first 10 games, but hit just 4-of-14 shots, including 1-of-10 three-pointers. He then all but disappeared when Granger returned, then Evan Turner was acquired, and Rasual Butler ultimately asserted himself. He drew DNPs in 25 regular-season games and was inactive (in street clothes) in 29.
As for the 2014 Orlando Summer League, Hill was on the roster but sat out all four games due to a sprained right ankle, according to Pacers.com.
Nonetheless, signs indicate Hill's fortunes could very well change in the upcoming 2014-15 campaign.
Hill's Potential Is on the Rise
Despite not logging too many minutes last season, Solomon Hill did work hard whenever he took the court. As a matter of fact, IndyCornrows.com's Tom Lewis notes the Pacers had an impressive 13-3 record in those 16 games Hill played.
Hill also showed tenacity on defense and willingness to shoot the outside shot. Lewis adds Hill "was impressive in his ability to NOT stand out in a negative fashion, either."
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel also raves at what Hill can do for the team this season, per 1070TheFan.com's Conrad Brunner:
I'm really excited about Solomon Hill can do for us. I think if he was pushed into a situation where he had to play 15-20 minutes a game all year he could've been a difference in our playoff run. He's got the ability to be an elite defender—an elite defender, not just an average defender.
I think he can be exceptional. His shot really looked like it was coming in the second part of the season. I think he's got a great ability to impact this team next year and we're really looking forward to seeing how he does in the summer league and how he grows coming into training camp next year.
If Vogel's prophecy does come true, Solomon Hill could possibly remind Pacers fans of Derrick McKey, the sleepy-eyed, gangly armed forward who was a terrific defender and good shooter from the outside. Paul George presents countless intangibles, and it will be a challenge for Hill to replace those.
Nonetheless, Hill brings solid credentials from Arizona. He has to utilize his arsenal fully in order for his career to flourish.
Montieth also sees Hill's upside. While Hill is not as athletic as George, the former "has the poise, maturity and all-around skill set that should allow him to contribute eventually."
Pacers president Larry Bird has also been impressed with the second-year man's progress, per Montieth:
He's improved a ton. He's a hard worker. He's out there every day beating it. He's going to be valuable next year. I thought earlier in the season he wasn't ready for it when he got to play, but he's ready now.
Coming from Larry Legend, that's definitely saying something.
The Final Say
If there ever was a time when the Indiana Pacers need Solomon Hill to make a huge impact, the time is now.
Aside from George's injury, the Pacers' playoff chances took a hit when Shawn Marion agreed to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Aug. 17. Had an aging Marion chosen Indy, the chances of Hill seeing significant playing time were big. Now with both George and Marion out of the picture, Hill will not only play a lot more than he did during his rookie year, he is expected to deliver.
The best-case scenario for Pacers fans is Hill playing big just like Lance Stephenson did in Danny Granger's absence.
As the above video montage of Hill's days as an Arizona Wildcat shows, he can do a little bit of everything on the offensive end—drive to the basket, post up, create his own shot and shoot from the outside. Add the fact that he is also solid defensively, and you have the makings of another strong, two-way player.
Can he now help fill Paul George's shoes?
Yes, he can. Hill is obviously not in George's stratosphere, but the former has the tools to have a decent NBA career. The skill set, character and work ethic are all in place. Given the right opportunities, Hill can help the Indiana Pacers make some noise in the 2014-15 NBA season.
This can't come soon enough as the Pacers need all the help they can get.