It wasn’t all that surprising that Malcolm Hill didn’t hear name called on NBA Draft night, but Hill will still get an opportunity to earn a NBA contract. The Oklahoma City Thunder signed Hill to a free agent contract giving him a chance to earn a roster spot through the Summer League. What Hill brings to the Thunder’s Summer League team is a player that works hard on both ends of the floor and is highly skilled.
Hill also brings plenty of experience. He played in 135 career games, scoring over 1,800 career points, grabbing more than 640 career rebounds. Although Hill had a stat stuffing collegiate career, not many NBA fans are familiar with him. Hill was often overlooked, not because of his play, but because of the team he played for. In Hill’s four years with Illinois the team went just 74-63 overall and failed to make the NCAA Tournament.
What Thunder fans can look for in Hill is that he provides a diverse skill-set, with the ability to score off the dribble, mid-range and three ball. To complete his offensive game, Hill needs to improve his efficiency on his shot. He shot 35% from three during his senior season. He also only shot 49.8 percent from two-point range during last season, with that actually being his career high.
However, Hill still has the potential to be a guy that can come off the bench and provide offense in short stints of action. Thunder fans shouldn’t worry too much about Hill’s efficiency numbers at Illinois, those should improve with better players around him. Hill’s ability to space the floor will be a major component in whether able to make the final Oklahoma City roster.
That said, what is exciting about Hill getting his chance with the Thunder is that he could be a guy to plug into small ball lineups, because of his experience in the playmaker role at Illinois. In the playmaking role during his senior season, he averaged 17 points, five rebounds and three assists per game with a lack of talent surrounding him.
Another Interesting note with Hill in potential small ball lineups is that Hill is 6-foot-6 and 234 pounds. He’s below average in height for an NBA forward, but he’s big and strong enough to battle against other small ball forwards. The two other questions with Hill is: (1) Does Hill have a quick enough first step for the NBA game; and (2) Can he defend in an NBA game?
Hill doesn't display elite burst with his first step or overwhelming quickness operating downhill, which at times made it difficult for him to create high percentage shots at Illinois. On defense Hill is strong, intelligent,and disciplined with getting in a low stance on the perimeter and moving his feet, but his lack of size and leaping ability will make it difficult for him to contain NBA athletes.
Of course Hill can still improve his body this summer under an NBA training program, but he doesn’t have much time because the NBA Summer League is right around the corner. Without elite athleticism, size or shooting, Hill might not be best suited for NBA action early on in his career. Hill could find himself developing in the D League before he gets his NBA chance.