In his third year with the Rockets, Luis Scola made a tremendous jump forward in Yao Ming's absence.
He scored better, rebounded more, and played improved defense as the Rockets, despite missing three of their best players from the year before, challenged for a playoff spot.
His possible departure has not even been mentioned this offseason. It has been widely assumed general manager Daryl Morey will match any offer for the stud power forward.
While I support that move, Scola should not be a starter next year.
While he impressed fans and scouts alike with his improved post game and gritty playing style, placing him alongside Yao Ming is a terrible match.
With Yao's already sub-par mobility, limited by his foot—which underwent extremely invasive surgery—the Rockets would be best served by playing an athletic, shot-blocking forward alongside Yao.
Fortunately for the Rockets, they nabbed an athletic forward in the Tracy McGrady/ Kevin Martin trade this season.
With his tremendous leaping ability and feel for the game, Hill certainly looked much better in a Rockets uniform than was expected after he gained a poor reputation in New York.
In fact, using win shares per 48 minutes (a stat that quantifies a player's all-around contributions to the team) from Basketball Reference , Hill was the Rockets' best player on the year.
For a throw-in to sweeten a deal, that is a pretty remarkable feat.
Hill should start not because he is better than Scola, in fact that argument is not even worth making, as Scola is definitely the superior player, but because he fits so well with Yao.
While Scola can make the midrange shot required of a big playing alongside Yao Ming, he doesn't help with Yao's greatest weakness, Ming's inability to rotate quickly to stop penetration into the lane.
In fact, Hill's greatest strength might be doing just that. And for that reason, he would be the perfect complement to Yao.
His shot-blocking from the weak side is not his only good attribute. He can stay with quicker post players, something Yao has struggled with, and can chase down rebounds that Yao could not reach.
They would form a duo similar to what the Rockets envisioned would develop with Yao and Eddie Griffin, the slower, more effective post player paired with the athletic, shot-blocking forward.
If the Rockets want to maximize their roster, they will keep Yao on the floor with Hill as much as possible. Scola should still play starter minutes, but his skills are not compatible with Yao's.
If the Rockets are committed to Yao at center, they should move Scola to the second unit.
Given Yao's unfortunate injury history, the Rockets should groom Hill as a potential successor in case their star center suffers another injury.
Exposing Hill to first team offenses would be the right decision in his development.
He certainly looked ready in his limited action with the Rockets last year.