Watching him play in the twilight of his career, it may be difficult to remember just how good Hill was in his prime with the Detroit Pistons.
As a rookie, Hill averaged 19.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, and 5 apg for a Detroit Pistons team that had won only 20 games the season before.
Detroit was in serious need of a rebuilding effort after the retirement of former bad boys Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas.
In just his second season, Hill became one of the NBA’s most popular players, (he even beat out Michael Jordan for the most All-Star votes in 1995-96), established himself as one of the league’s best all-around talents, and led the Pistons back to the playoffs.
For the first six years of his career, Hill averaged 21.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 6.1 apg, and 1.6 spg.
Hill’s numbers after these seasons put him into elite company with players like Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor, and Oscar Robertson.
At only 28 years old, Hill was one of the biggest offseason prizes during the summer of 2000.
The Orlando Magic made Hill a priority, and pulled off a sign-and-trade with the Pistons to acquire the small forward.
Having also added Tracy McGrady to their roster, the Magic looked to be one of the best teams in the East heading into the 2000-01 season.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
While with the Magic, Hill's career was ravaged by ankle injuries. He played only 47 games for Orlando from 2000-2004.
He endured multiple surgeries, and although Hill was finally healthy for the 2004-05 season, he simply wasn’t the same player he used to be and had lost four years in his prime.
Hill’s injuries changed so many things in the NBA landscape, it’s hard to even contemplate everything.
But here it goes:
1. With an emerging superstar in McGrady and one of the best players in the NBA in Hill, the Magic had a one-two punch that most teams wouldn’t have handled.
With a few solid role players, this team could have won at least one (if not more) championship and been a title contender for five or six seasons.
2. Without Hill, McGrady was forced to be the number one option and leader of the Magic in just his fourth season removed from high school.
While this allowed Tracy to become one of the NBA’s premier scorers, it probably stunted his growth as a team player as he had to do almost everything himself.
Even without Hill, McGrady led the Magic to the playoffs in his first three seasons, but simply didn’t have enough help to ever advance past the first round.
McGrady also became labeled as a guy who couldn’t get it done in the playoffs before being shipped out to Houston in 2004.
3. In the 2003-04 season, the Orlando Magic endured a miserable 21-61 season as Hill was forced to sit out the entire year.
McGrady was forced to make due with the likes of Juwan Howard, Drew Gooden, and Tyronn Lue as his supporting cast.
Thanks to their terrible season, the Magic won the Draft Lottery and selected none other than Dwight Howard with the no. 1 overall pick.
With a healthy Hill, the Magic don’t even sniff the lottery and Howard would most likely be playing for the Bobcats, Bulls, or Clippers.
4. Finally, if Hill had stayed healthy, he would have continued his dominance in the NBA as well, putting up career numbers in the vicinity of 20 ppg, 7 rpg, and 6 apg, not to mention being one of the best defenders in the league for over 10 seasons.
If Hill and McGrady had won a title or two in Orlando, it’s not out of the question that we’re talking about Hill as one of the greatest players in NBA history.