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Solomon Hill has arrived for the Indiana Pacers

A 28-point game for Solomon Hill on Saturday was evidence that he's still growing.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Solomon Hill always spoke with a unique quality. He's clever, not cliche and always believable.

Hill never spouted impossible goals or wallowed in saying, like so many basketball players do, that he can improve every part of his game. That's what players say when they aren't working on their game.

"You hear these people, they slate you off as other guys' potential or a guy who can contribute right now," Hill said last summer after a pre-draft workout in Phoenix. "I can contribute right now and I can get better. I'm not an old man.

"I'm not drawing a comparison, but you look at a guy like Kawhi Leonard, a guy people said he couldn't shoot. Now you look at him, he's doing the little things for his team. He's getting better in a system. Danny Green got better in a system. People can always get better."

It was the way Hill said it that was different.

His comments came across as defensive in that pre-draft workout with the Suns, but fairly so. While he discussed what he could do well, he also spent enough time explaining why it was silly to discuss what he couldn't. Why are four-year college players labeled as having reached their ceilings? There's a fair argument among basketball scouts for that to be true, but that Hill didn't buy it perhaps said he's the exception to the rule.

Nobody thought Hill was more than a second-round pick, and ESPN had him ranked as the 79th-best prospect in the 2013 draft.

The Pacers must have believed what Hill said. They picked him 23rd overall, a shocking selection that had many smart people in basketball scratching their heads. Hill hardly played on a loaded roster during his rookie season, scoring 47 total points and appearing in 28 games.

This year, he was promoted by default. Danny Granger was traded during the 2013-14 season, Lance Stephenson left for a big contract in Charlotte and Paul George broke his leg playing for Team USA in a scrimmage. With the opportunity in Indy, Hill hit double-figures in five November games after two quiet outings in October. A Saturday night loss to the Washington Wizards saw him go for 28 points.

Hill scored those on 19 shots and 11 free throws while adding six rebounds and three steals. He played 43 minutes, mostly because Indiana doesn't have much depth behind him. It's one game, but this is the NBA.

It counts for something.


Hill was cutting to get himself open for dunks against Otto Porter, who was the 2013 draft class' third overall pick. He remained aggressive on the offensive glass like he had playing power forward at Arizona. While the Pacers drafted him to be a lockdown perimeter defender first, that versatility has gone beyond that end of the court.

Hill was scrambling for loose balls, using his strength to clean up on the offensive glass.

The biggest piece to the puzzle has been Hill's jumper. He lost weight and moved to small forward during his senior year at Arizona. His jumper came as far as it could come since he arrived as a freshman who couldn't do anything other than score at the rim.

But not only has Hill developed a mid-range jumper to go with a spotup three. He's using it with aggression, and that was the step that only really showed in Hill's last game, a Sweet 16 loss to Ohio State.

Saturday against the Wizards, Hill was draining mid-range jumpers with the shot clock winding down.


It's one game early in the year. Scouting reports will start adjusting soon enough. Sure, Hill got lucky to find himself on a team that won a lot last year and this year barely has enough players to go two men deep at each position.

It's nonetheless promising to see the former Wildcat show he belongs, that the draft projections were more wrong than the Pacers' decision to reach for him in the first round.

Hill has a long way to go before a 28-point performance becomes the regular, or even the occasional. But his point is proven.

Why can't he get better?