Stop me if you have heard this before: This summer's free agency period is going to be CRAZY.
Stop me again if you heard me reiterate this over and over: Versatile swingmen are all the rage in "today's NBA."
Everyone knows the narrative by now, small-ball is furiously taking over the league and every team wants to arm their roster with enough flexibility to combat any lineup combination thrown their way. The ability to switch the pick-and-roll along the perimeter is no longer a privilege, but a necessity in order to hang tough amongst the game's elite.
Because of this and the remarkably skyrocketing salary cap, seemingly fringe players with a specific "3 and D" skill set are set to get paid over the next week or so. Remember when people were quibbling over Al-Farouq Aminu garnering more than $7 million per season last summer? That was nothing, and Aminu's deal is already looking like one of the best bargains in the league.
With this in mind, we are brought to former University of Arizona product Solomon Hill, who is an unrestricted free agent with a "fertile" market according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune. Within that fertile market figures to be the Phoenix Suns given their desire for more depth along the wing and thirst for a small-ball four that is of the legal drinking age.
Hill has grown into a wanted commodity over his three seasons in the league, blossoming from a fistful of energy to a well-rounded player. He leaves a little more to be desired with his jump shot (he has hovered around 32 percent from 3-point land in his career), but there have been random outbursts of marksmanship, including making seven 3-pointers against the Milwaukee Bucks in April.
Coaching staffs have to be confident in their ability to transform Hill's shot mechanics into a more lucrative percentage, as his jumper is far from broken. His release would never be characterized as quick, but if he has the space and just enough time to set himself, Hill can hurt you from beyond the arc. Ironically, that sounds eerily similar to the aforementioned Aminu.
Though the 3-point capabilities are nice, teams will be hypnotized by Hill's defense versatility, length, and athleticism in the open court. He profiles as someone who can seamlessly switch assignments along the perimeter, as well as take on a primary defensive assignment against the other team's best scorer if needed. There are times when Hill will emerge from his sunken defensive stance and squabble a driving attempt with an extended swat:
That ability to attack, recover, and attack again is unique, and perhaps the biggest draw for potential suitors. I know Stanley Johnson isn't the most experienced scorer yet, but he is still a load to deal with off the dribble, and Hill showed fantastic effort in denying him on that possession.
Again, energy is Hill's calling card in the league, sparking enthused defensive efforts with his own individual exhibition. He has the kind of energy that reverberates with teammates and a home crowd alike. That is valuable, and provides a domino effect that can crescendo into an extended scoring run with one snap.
Hill's athletic gifts do not only translate on the defensive end of the floor, but also on offense. Possessing the aptitude for attacking an unbalanced defender embarking on a closeout attempt, the former Pacer charges the rim with reckless abandon:
Bismack Biyombo is no slouch in the painted area, yet Hill barrels himself into Biyombo's body before executing a nifty left-handed throw-in that equates to one of those Blake Griffin pseudo dunks. There is no fear in Hill's drives -- he just receives the pass, uses a quick first step to blow by his often-lumbering defender and imposes his athleticism in the paint. If there was even an ounce of hesitation in that drive, Biyombo would have had the extra split-second he needed to thwart Hill's journey to the rim.
Straight-lined drives are more within Hill's comfort zone, but every so often he will showcase a frisky handle and surprisingly smooth footwork to get off a clean look in the lane:
Evaluators watching Hill perform feats like that off the dribble are hard-pressed to not be roused. There is more to Hill than the "3 and D" complex, and it will be important for whichever team that signs him to make these sudden surges of woah moments a more consistent occurrence.
The battle for Hill's services will be a rigorous endeavor for the Suns. A familiarity with the area because of his time down in Tucson could be a great starting point, and there will be minutes to be had for Hill if he happens to associate Phoenix as an appealing destination.
However, there is a steep eagerness to throw the bank at the similarly-talented, younger, (and more expensive) Harrison Barnes. Since Barnes is a restricted free agent, any offer sheet he signs with a team that is not the Golden State Warriors will hold that team's cap space hostage for up to three days until Golden State claims their desire to either match the offer or let him walk. If the Suns were to offer Barnes four-year max offer sheet -- woof -- and he signs, then Hill can all but be kissed goodbye.
The Utah Jazz have been another rumored destination for Hill, and I have an innate feeling that they are going to pounce on him hard now that they have sured up the point guard spot with the acquisition of George Hill from the Pacers. Since (Solomon) Hill is an unrestricted free agent, signing him to a contract will not require the three-day tango that a pursuit of Barnes entails.
Do not be surprised if there is a team that dips out of the sweepstakes for Barnes or other marquee free agents, makes Hill a top priority, and snatches him up as soon as the clock strikes midnight eastern on July 1st. (Coincidentally, this is exactly what the Portland Trail Blazers did with Aminu last summer. The parallels are never-ending!)
Hill would be a great fit in Phoenix as a do-everything kind of wing with the capability to mask as a four while the young guns are being nurtured. It will be interesting to see if Ryan McDonough aggressively pursues him or relinquishes the opportunity by seeking out the bigger fish in Barnes.