The Big Ten (and college basketball, in general, for that matter) fields a wide variety of different teams and players in unique circumstances. Some players land in the perfect situation, while others get stuck on a struggling team.
One of the players who fit into the latter category is Malcolm Hill. Despite playing in more than 135 career games, scoring over 1,800 career points, and grabbing more than 640 career rebounds, he was often overlooked. Not because of his play, but because of the Illinois Fighting Illini. He was a player caught in the midst of a backslide.
Yes, despite those impressive career numbers, Illinois went just 74-63 (.54) overall with Hill and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. It’s incredible to think that a player as gifted as Hill never played in the Big Dance, but that’s life. He will now try to make his way into the 2017 NBA Draft and on an NBA roster next fall.
Let’s take a look at what Hill could offer an NBA franchise.
Hill was, arguably, the most offensively gifted player in the Big Ten last season. He averaged 17.2 points per game and had an offensive rating of 113.8. On top of that, he was No. 11 in the league in assist rate and had a 57.1 true shooting percentage. Oh, and he shot 78.4 percent from the line on 204 attempts.
Those stats aren’t sample size limited, either. Hill played 83.6 percent of the team’s minutes and dominated the team’s offensive possessions. He took 26.4 percent of the team’s shots will on the floor and 25.9 percent of its possessions. Over the course of the season, he took 170 more field goal attempts than any other Illinois player.
Notably, much of Hill’s impact came outside the arc. Hill took 183 three-point attempts last season, which was roughly 42.1 percent of his total field goal attempts. Despite all those attempts, he shot 35.8 percent from three-point range. That’s not an elite number, but it’s really productive when taken into context with his attempts.
Of course, there are a few things that NBA fans will have to be concerned about with Hill’s game. To start, he’s not a supremely athletic specimen. He had more than enough athleticism to score at the college level, but against NBA two and three-guards? At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Hill is going to have to face off against those guys at the next level and scoring without elite athleticism on them will be a concern.
Moreover, Hill has a long way to go inside the paint. He was good at getting to the free-throw line (No. 12 in the Big Ten during league play), but he only shot 49.8 percent from two-point range during last season. And that was his career high. Given the athleticism concerns, I have a hard time believing that improves at the NBA level.
Hill also needs to show that he can pose some presence on the boards. As a two or three-guard, he wouldn’t be expected to be a monster on the boards, but his rebounding numbers dropped as a senior both in the raw and advanced stats. Even if his role did fluctuate, it’s another spot that fans will want to follow.
-Potential Best Fit:
Realistically, I think Hill is going to be a guy that has to spend some time in Europe or in the NBA Developmental League to work on his game, if he’s ever going to land on an NBA roster for a significant duration. He has a diverse skillset, but that diversity alone isn’t going to be enough for him to stick at the next level.
Without elite athleticism or shooting, Hill is going to have to develop a role at the NBA level. Maybe it’s as a shooter or a second (or third) guard that can bring the ball down the court. Either way, I think he needs to grow before he can fill that type of role. Look for a team that has the option to stash a guy for a year or two before they need him.
Barring something unusual, Hill likely won’t hear his name called during the 2017 NBA Draft. However, he will get a chance to compete in the NBA Summer League and stands a decent chance of landing a roster spot. If he can figure out a role for himself at the next level, he has a diverse enough skillset to stick around for quite some time.