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Can Illini Guard Malcolm Hill Reach the NBA?

BTPowerhouse takes a look at the draft potential of the former Illinois star

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The career of Malcolm Hill often gets overlooked by the casual fans because Illinois simply wasn’t a very good program for a majority of the time he was there. While they made a push for a possible berth in the NCAA Tournament this season, they came up short and Hill finished his career having never played in an NCAA Tournament game.

Following his final season at the collegiate level, questions of the next level will surround Hill as he will look to make his mark on a team at the next level.

One thing that anyone who follows college basketball, especially the Big Ten, is that Malcolm Hill can flat out put the ball in the basket.

Hill has been a steady contributor since he saw a major role increase between his freshman and sophomore season and was a two-time selection to the All Big Ten 2nd team in his junior and senior seasons.

We saw a slight decrease in the statistical output from Hill this season, but his percentages and efficiency ratings did see a slight increase.

Player Strengths

As was mentioned, Malcolm Hill is a scorer of the basketball. In his final two seasons at Illinois, Hill was consistently at or near the top of the list of scoring leaders in the conference. In his junior season, his best individual statistical season, he averaged 18.1 points. On top of his scoring, he also averaged 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists as a junior.

This season, those numbers saw a slight decrease, though Hill also did not need to carry such a large load with the improvement of the rest of the team. He averaged 17.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3 assists this season while improving his field goal percentage and his individual points per possession stat from 1.07 as a junior to 1.11 as a senior.

Hill also has fairly good size for the NBA game at 6’6” and 230 pounds, allowing him to play multiple positions on the floor. In the position-less style of basketball the NBA has morphed into, teams love guys who can play multiple positions on the court.

His size also allows him to be a fairly good defender, something he certainly improved on over his time at Illinois. As a senior, Hill averaged 1.2 steals per game. Of course, that number doesn’t jump off the screen at you, but it shows that he’s engaged defensively and has the size and skill defensively to make a difference on the game.

Player Weaknesses

Along with the trend towards playing a style of basketball where positions aren’t nearly as meaningful and the game is more free flowing, it also leads to an increasing importance on athleticism. It’s not clear that Malcolm Hill is an NBA level athlete at this point.

While nobody will question his scoring ability, there are questions about his ability to shoot the three. He had an up and down career from beyond the arc, peaking at 38.9% as a sophomore and hitting his lowest percentage at 31.4% the next year as a junior. This year, he got that mark back up to 35.8% but teams will have to decide what kind of shooter they’re getting in Malcolm Hill.

NBA Outlook

There are definitely things that Malcolm Hill has working in his favor at the NBA level. He’s got good NBA size and can flat out put the ball in the basket. Having said that, there are drawbacks to his game as well. He plays the game, for the most part, from mid-range and in. As we all know, especially at the NBA level, the mid-range shot is all but dead.

Teams want to score from three levels of the floor in the NBA: The three point line, the free throw line, and at the rim. While Malcolm Hill shoots free throws at a consistent clip of 78.4%, does he have the athleticism to finish at the rim and can he become a more consistent shooter?

DraftExpress has Malcolm Hill as the 55th overall pick to the Washington Wizards in their current mock draft. It’s certainly possible that Hill could become a viable option and part of a bench rotation at the NBA level because he’s a good defender and you’d think he could find ways to put the ball in the basket against second unit competition at the next level.

If he hears his name called on draft night, he would be the first Illinois player since Meyers Leonard in 2012 to get drafted.