Ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season, Peachtree Hoops is taking a look at the Atlanta Hawks roster and what each player may provide to the club this season. Today, we examine veteran forward Solomon Hill.
Solomon Hill ended up playing a surprisingly pivotal role for the Hawks during the 2020-21 NBA season. Despite entering the season on a contract that wasn’t fully guaranteed, he ended up playing in the most games (71) of any player on the roster during the regular season and played the fifth most minutes (1513).
That certainly wasn’t the plan heading into the season but with what seemed like a never ending series of injuries to players at the forward positions, Hill’s availability proved to be immensely valuable.
At the power forward position, Atlanta got 63 games from John Collins and 51 from Danilo Gallinari last season. It was even more dire at the small forward position where they got just 19 games from De’Andre Hunter (the planned starter) and 26 games from Cam Reddish, who was expected to fill minutes on the second unit at both wing positions.
For a player probably intended to never be a part of the normal rotation, Hill added a lot of value by simply providing professional, competent minutes. He was extremely reliable as a team defender that was useful in helping organizing and integrating a team that was still pretty young while having nine new players on the roster, of which he was one.
Offensively, he had the lowest usage season of his eight year career but sought ways to add value in the margins. He shot the ball from the three-point line below his career average but when left wide open he didn’t hesitate to let if fly, an important and sometimes understated quality in a player that is usually the lowest offensive priority.
From a statistical perspective he was a neutral player on defense while functioning as a modest negative on offense during the regular season. In the postseason however, where the weakest link get exposed with regularity, he was massive liability on offense while remaining a neutral player on the other end of the court.
Hill still took on important assignments at times in the playoffs, especially after Hunter was lost to injury, defending Julius Randle and Tobias Harris for important stretches.
He’s not an embarrassingly bad player on the offensive end. It’s just that when opposing defenses throw so much of their defensive attention at Trae Young, as happened through the postseason, players at the wing position need to possess some above average skill (at least one) to put to use in punishing a potentially overcommitted defense.
Hill is a below average as a shooter, ball handler and passer. He can make up for those deficiencies by serving as a willing screener and helping move the ball when the pass to be made is simple.
His willingness to be selfless and work to add value on the margins made his spot in the rotation quite workable in the regular season, but it wasn’t nearly enough when the playoffs arrived.
The Hawks decided to bring him back for the 2021-22 season, this time on a fully guaranteed contract. The plan is probably a bit like it was last season entering the schedule. If he plays even half as many minutes as he did last year it will likely be the result of multiple injuries at the forward spots.
Even if the team manages to avoid the injury bug one has to wonder how many games the 33-year old Gallinari will play this season. Hill offers reliable, albeit significantly less productive, minutes at the power forward position when Gallinari needs a night off.
Additionally, one wonder if Atlanta might ease Hunter into a full workload coming off a knee injury that required surgery. And if the Hawks plan to use Collins more at the center position while they are missing Onyeka Okongwu (injured), Hill’s presence will be additionally helpful at power forward.
The team did recently add Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarrot, a younger combo forward that is a better shooter and more mobile defender than Hill. It will be interesting to see who gets the minutes on nights when a normal member of the rotation might be missing.
Even as a veteran that might not play for somewhat long stretches this season, Hill is the kind of veteran that understands how to help his team regardless of playing time. And that’s the part of his return that makes the most sense.
If Atlanta has unfortunate injury luck again this season, Hill is an experienced player the coaching staff can trust to avoid making the most costly of mistakes regardless of score and situation.
Hill will help the team this season, even if it might not always look that way from a distance.