Jordan Hill’s Big Night

2010 March 8
by rahat huq

I had planned to highlight the relationship between Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin during last night’s game. That was before Jordan Hill decided to show a pulse. The rookie forward had career highs across the board, scoring 12 points and grabbing 8 boards in his 23 minutes of play.

A few things stood out immediately. First, this is the first power forward prospect with legitimate size and athleticism that the team has had in quite some time. Hill is currently a very gangly 6’10, but after his first real offseason as an NBA player, you can see him filling out that frame with added muscle and growing into a full-sized power forward.

Secondly, Hill ran the floor hard on every possession. With that said, during analysis of unique circumstances, I am extremely weary of making characterizations based on effort-driven production. What I mean is that I hesitate to assert that “Jordan Hill runs the floor hard” or “is a great running big man” when this was the first night of his career playing big minutes – obviously he would want to play his hardest and impress the coaching staff, so we can’t make any conclusions regarding the sustainability, similar to McGrady’s defensive efforts upon his return. However, while we can’t conclude whether he’ll consistently continue these efforts, I think we can conclude that he’s a very fast runner for a ‘big’ as he consistently beat the Pistons down the court and found himself open on almost every trip.

Next point is that Jordan Hill is very active both on the glass and on the weak side. While he didn’t actually get any blocks, he came over to challenge almost every shot that was in his vicinity and definitely bothered the Pistons on many occasions with his length. This was very encouraging to see as the Rockets have not had a springy shot-blocker/rebounder in the regular rotation since the days of the late Eddie Griffin.

Now, while Jordan Hill is athletic, he is not freakish by any means. This is not to say that freakish athleticism is necessary for effectiveness, but I feel the distinction should at least be brought to attention – this is not an Amare Stoudemire type of athlete of whom we are speaking; he is above average but doesn’t exactly explode off the jump. What makes him promising is his length.

What most surprised me was Jordan Hills’ fluidity. His jumper has textbook form, elbow in line with both feet parallel on the jump, and he seems fairly deft in the post as we saw him, on one occasion shown above, gather himself in motion for the jump hook.

His wrist motion looked very fluid and natural on the hook shot. This isn’t really much to write home about by itself, but I wanted to point this out to contrast against Kelvin Cato and Joey Dorsey. Those two notorious stiffs looked almost mechanical on such shots, as if their wrists couldn’t properly bend for such a motion. I suppose that’s why such players are called ‘stiffs.’ But Hill, while still raw, is by no means a stiff.

We saw him roll to the basket in two strides for a left-handed finger-roll. I don’t think I even recall Carl Landry making an off-handed finger-roll, so this was very impressive.

Hill’s overall body control and fluidity surprised me because his body gives off the impression of a total lack of coordination. He’s almost a skeleton, seemingly susceptible to being blown away by the wind at any moment, so naturally I was expecting to see a skillset akin to that of the esteemed Mikki Moore.

One of the things that impressed me most was that he actually looked very comfortable initiating the pick and roll from the high post, maneuvering off the dribble to hand the ball off to teammates. Contrast this against former Rocket Joey Dorsey who looked completely out of his element when so far away from the basket. With Hill’s ability to shoot, and apparent ability to roll to the basket, in combination with his comfort in making decisions up top, I really think he can be valuable when used in pick and roll situations with the guards.

Finally, the above clips are likely of interest but don’t really hold much analytical value. I suppose you could stretch things and conclude that he’s at least a decent finisher around the basket, but I think that assertion would be a bit premature.

We can’t really draw too many conclusions from this game, but the good news is that Jordan Hill’s ceiling is higher than being the reincarnation of Mikki Moore. He is coordinated, has greath length, and seems very comfortable up top – there is definitely promise in this package, but I don’t want to get too carried away off of one game. We are now aware of his skillset – the question is refinement and sustainability.

I am hoping the former lottery pick continues to receive extended minutes because at this point, player development is really all that is left that can be gleaned from these last few games.

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  • Allen
    I have to disagree with a few things in this analysis. First Jordan Hill does not look like a skeleton. 2nd while I agree Hill is not an explosive leaper like Amare as far as vertical, he does get off the ground quickly.
  • durvasa
    I agree with you. Jordan looks to have a very good NBA body, and he appears to be well above average at rebounding and dunking in traffic. He needs to learn all he can from Chuck on the art of post defense, work with the Rockets excellent trainers on his post moves, master that midrange jumper at the top of the key (which already looks to be quite smooth), and we'll have a heck of a player on our hands.
  • TC
    Nice, honest analysis.

    I watched Hill three years at the U of A go from a guy who could barely hold a basketball his freshman year, the least touted member of his class, to a lottery pick after his junior year. He's a guy who can develop quickly, but will need some games where he can learn the ropes. I have a feeling he'll be a solid player and I would love to see him and Chase playing and winning together in Houston.
  • echu888
    Thanks for the summary. Some of my thoughts:
    1) The front office probably saw the opportunity at hand. Firstly, in all probability, we're not making the playoffs. Secondly, Andersen happened to get hurt. Thirdly, nothing helps with development like getting in some good ole' fashion PT. I'm thinking that the front office sees that this last stretch of the season is great for feeling out and getting some tape on one of your young prospects, and whether or not he might fit into your system for the next year. That could have impact on how draft decisions play out as well ... if a big-man rotation of Yao-Scola-Hill-Hayes is competitive, or needs upgrading.

    2) My first impressions of watching Hill move -- he reminds me of Ariza in his body control. Serviceable but not NBA-level refinement. However, the difference could be that as a big man, Hill doesn't try and do too much with the ball in his hands. If, instead, he does more of what we saw in these videos -- set picks and roll, cut to the basket, position for rebounds, run the floor to pressure/exploit the other team's bigs, challenge shots from the weak side -- he can utilize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses for the benefit of the team.

    3) If he's only been playing basketball since the 10th grade, that's amazing. I'm not sure how it all works, but according to the recently popular 10,000 hours-of-practice rule, Jordan Hill is behind the curve for developing his craft. Time will tell if he has the character and drive to put in a few good solid summers of work and continue on a steep upward growth trend. If he is indeed having some focused attention from CD or others, there is hope yet for the young man.
  • rahat_huq
    christopher - we have to remember that stromile also showed flashes at some points too.

    verbs - i think that even with yao, this team is still a major piece away from serious contention, and power forward would be the logical choice. i wil be touching on scola in the next few days.
  • Christopher
    Rahat: I meant attitude-wise--Swift's ability had fooled me into thinking he was a good signing back in the day. Swift did too much showboating for my liking.
  • rahat_huq
    ah yes, they seem to be polar opposites in that respect
  • Stephen
    Re Hill,
    I liked that he made a couple of nice passes,showing he has decent court vision.
    Worrisome is he displayed some bad hands a few times,not cleanly securing rebounds. Hope that it was nerves,excitement and not the dreaded bad hands.

    In the bigger picture,
    Ariza,Budinger,Martin signed for next 4 yrs. Yao and Lowry likely to be signed for comparable length. That's the core team building around. Starting SG,SF,C,Sixth man,back-up PG/spot starter who will get many minutes as an off-guard. combining for some $40mil.
    Figure a bench w/2 rotation bigs(prob one on rookie deal,other modest salary),a wing rotation guy and some roster fill equaling about $13-14mil.
    That leaves starting PF,PG. If Les is truly willing to go some $5mil over Lux Tax,thats's about a max and a rookie contract.(Or taking on a baaad contract to get a really talented young player.)

    W/the core precluding signing a top FA,a trade for one seems the best route. And Morey has stockpiled a tempting array of trade pieces that he may never assemble again.
    2 $7mil+ expiring contracts who can actually contribute to a team. Scola in a sign-n-trade. Armstrong as well,w/minimum salary guarantee for cap matching purposes. Potential young talent in Taylor and Llull. Brooks in a trade for a PG,and Hill for a PF. And w/2 picks in 2012,the team can trade away three consecutive yrs worth of Firsts.
    While we expect Morey to go after a PF(Bosh,Amare,or more Morey-like,Anthony Randolph or Jason Thompson along w/a Maggette/Nocioni) and perhaps make another push at Rubio,I wonder.
    What if Morey feels his team really needs a set-up guy,a playmaker?
    What if Morey goes hard for Chris Paul?
    Battier,Jeffries,Brooks and Taylor,cash and a couple of Firsts for Paul,Posey shaves $4mil+ off NO payroll,while replacing 2 players w/4.(If the Rox picked up a large enough TPE they could also take on Julian Wright,saving NO another 42.8mil.)
    For those saying Paul is basketball in NO,reflect on who their owner is.
    Shinn had rabid fans in Charlotte who sold out his building every night and he effed them and moved his team. He came thiiiis close to leaving NO-w/Paul on his team. Jordan's price may have depressed Franchise price tags,so either he endures losing millions for a few yrs while waiting for price to rise,or he sells now and tries to limit his losses until a sale closes.
    As great as Paul is in the community,Battier is no slouch,being very good in community work and working the business community very well.
    Finally,this version of Hornets hasn't exactly set the NBA on fire,likely missing the Playoffs this yr. As bad as trading Paul would be,it could be spun as rebuilding for the future,esp w/Collison playing so well.
    I agree it would be unlikely,but if Morey is going to swing for the fences,Paul is who he should swing for.
  • bob schmidt
    Seems like every time an asset is identified, it's time to calculate the player's worth in a trade. If we're going to identify who might be traded to improve the team, next year Battier gets 7.3 million, Jeffries gets 6.8 mil, Ariza gets 6.3 mil, and Armstrong gets 3.8 mil.

    If I'm looking to trade and improve the team, these guys are going to be shopped. We shouldn't be so ready to let young talent slip away when we have players who have little or no upside from this point. Obviously, we can't keep everyone if we add another good player, but letting someone like Brooks go in a trade would be risky. He and Lowry are special in my book.........And Jordan Hill is not someone to think about trading until he has shown his ability to grow and learn as a Rocket.
  • Alituro
    I'd have to agree with you here Bob. Right now, we are stacked in the wings, have 2 great point guards, one who is a scorer and one who just flat-out hustles all around. The one place where there is something missing is in the post. If we do anything to acquire a big man the likes of Bosh or Stoudamire, then we will move to serious contention. We all know how volatile Yao is injury-wise, but if someone of those guys' ilk is able to play both post positions well, then we will be better able to preserve Yao all season by reducing his minutes. If we didn't acquire that piece and force Yao to put up 40 minutes a game the inevitable is bound to happen and we'd be stuck once again with a wimpy post presence.

    Although Paul is an outstanding player, making a move like that jeopardizes your future draft potential, and would force the team into another rebuilding/acclimation stage by switching PGs. Especially since the upside of Paul over Brooks isn't great enough to warrant a house cleaning.
  • Stephen
    The Rockets have 5 Firsts over next 4 yrs. Trading away 2 or 3 of them is hardly going to cripple the franchise. Not when Les has finally been convinced that buying draft picks saves him money in long run.(And let's not forget the team was willing to give up 2 Firsts for Ron.)

    I don't mean to be snide,but have you watched the Rockets? Name a game where Aaron struggled w/his shot and the team's offense ran well. The team is missing Lowry in large part because he made plays for his teammates. If you have any of the games saved watch how often Lowry got into paint and kicked out to Bud or Andersen for open shots. Watch how rarely Brooks does so.
    Remember back to last yr when Adelman had to have Shane or Ron make the entry passes into Yao because Brooks couldn't? Has Paul had a problem feeding his big men? How often does Aaron throw a lob pass to Ariza,Bud or Landry when he was here?
    Now in all likelihood,Paul is a pipe-dream.
    A little food for thought,Brooks was born Jan 14,1985,Paul May 6,1985.

    As to the housecleaning,you're perfectly willing to do so for Bosh,but not Paul?
    Aaron is a very good player but he has some pretty big issues as a PG,esp as the point on a team w/no playmaking wings. There's a reason why Morey went after Rubio.
  • Alituro
    I agree Brooks has his shortcomings (no pun intended) but what he lacks, Lowry, when he's healthy is able to make up for it. With the right supporting cast and better post presence, I would tend to think Lowry should start with Brooks coming off the bench when a scoring punch is needed or when we go small. Right now we have one of the top PG tandems in the league with those two admittedly behind Paul and Collison. Not saying I wouldn't be excited about a pick up like Paul or Rubio, I just think the center, and now PF positions with Landry gone are our weakest spots and the main reason we are not in contention now. I just think that should be the focus of our acquisitional efforts above all else. We can go far without any changes to our rotation at positions 1-3, but with 4-5, not so much. No denying that really... we start a 6'6" center for crissakes! For Hill to come into his own here in the next few months would be a godsend though, after a couple losses, Rick should probably consider tanking in the name of getting our young guys some court time.
  • Stephen
    As so often it boils down to Yao.
    If he stays healthy thru the yr and the Playoffs,and plays like a healthy Yao,I'd rather have an upgrade over Brooks and settle for okay PFs.
    W/no Yao,having that stud PF who can play C would sure be nice.

    I tend to agree Lowry should be starting as I feel his skills certainly fit better w/Ariza and Martin and he seems to feed bigs better. Brooks looks like he would fit the Bobby Jackson role perfectly-except for hi defense.(And if the second unit is Brooks,Bud,Battier,Hill and Hayes,that's most of this yr's starting unit so he'd fit right in.)
    I just question Adelman's willingness to make such a switch,esp knowing he can always play Lowry in crunch if needed.

    Wandered kind of far from talking about Hill. Writing this after the Wash game ended. I've been impressed w/Hill's passing. Beautiful feed to Bud on a curl,waiting for just the right instant to pass. Haven't seen him force one yet in his limited minutes. If he's showing this in practices it's easy to imagine Rick mentally dusting off his Webber plays.
  • Kade
    As I've posted a number of times the Rockets can't expect Yao to suddenly become a healthy player and must account for that. Morey must automatically assume that Yao will not be able to stay injury free, if he does then that's a major bonus, but plan accordingly as if he will miss extended time next year.
  • Alituro
    yup, we've strayed way off subject, and I agree it boils down to Yao that's why I believe if we get a big name PF who could swing to C occasionally, we can keep Yao's minutes under 30 per game which would be key. I think his proneness for injury is basically due to utter exhaustion during grueling series, back-to-backs, etc. Glad to have Lowry back, he stepped in and made a huge difference last night, drawing fouls, superb passing, getting others involved when the starters grow stagnant. Hope he's OK with that ankle.

    I think Hill will end up being a really good player once he gets more minutes under his belt. I don't think it's inconceiveable to say that in a season or two he could easily be putting up Landry type numbers with some defense to boot. He has excellent court awareness on both ends, and seems to avoid bone-headed actions. It's just experience he lacks.
  • rahat_huq
    interesting that you bring up his hands because that was one of the biggest knocks on him, from what i gathered
  • Verbs and Nouns
    rahat, could you touch upon the notion that the ROX; after moreys comments; may go after a big name in the off-season, most obvious of the names seems to be bosh since he's from texas. my opinion is that in scola and hill we have a perfect balance to compliment yao. luis is solid as a rock, consistent. hill is the x-factor. the young kid who can jump through the roof and is showing flashes of growing into his body and becoming a good player in the league, all on the cheap mind you. if bosh came to town, that no doubt would mean luis,AB,picks shane, jeffries, it would take alot to make it happen, which toronto may bite on. i feel as if that would affect the chemistry on the team and while we would have the sexy name recognition, would be missing the pieces to the puzzle.
  • Christopher
    Rahat, good analysis, as usual. Many fans can get carried away with one big game--glad to see you maintain your objectivity! Also, the video clips are fine addition to the site--especially for an out of market fan like me away from his League Pass. I'm beginning to see why Hill was a lottery pick--his fluidity in the above clip surprised me.

    If his play last night was any indication, I wouldn't mind at all if the Rockets in up hanging on to him. In this limited action, he looks more fluid to me than KU's lottery-bound Cole Aldrich. I liked Hill's attitude too--he looked like he was all-business out there, and like he was sure that he belonged in the league--unlike Stromile Swift.
  • rahat_huq
    bk10 - did you see any post moves in his time with the knicks aside from the one used in the clip i included?

    alituro - i will be looking into scola more closely in the coming days. as for hill, i think any deal for a premiere power forward would undoubtedly require him in the deal.
  • bk10
    Rahat, Hill did show some post moves with the Knicks (in fact, one of this breakout games was against the same Pistons), but from what I saw, he relied on his quickness to spin toward the basket with his defender at his back. He wasn't particularly accomplished at playing to contact or assessing his defender before making a move, so any sort of double team or crowd in the lane usually meant a turnover. Early on, he was too fond of spinning in one direction or the other even when it didn't accomplish anything, which are tendencies that I expect the Rockets to correct.
  • Alituro
    Hill can definitely be an asset worth holding on to especially if we don't pick up the premier PF we have eyes on in the offseason, or if we end up having to squander Scola to get one. Speaking of Scola, I know this is off-topic, but I've seen him really come around as of late putting up incredible numbers through the last 3 games at least. I'm wondering if that is a direct result of having his reliable back up gone. Is it a result of elevated minutes or pressure, or a decrease of pressure now with more job security? Or is there less job security for him with this team because of all the recent posturing and talk about luring in another big man? Whatever the reason, his production lately has given me confidence that Morey made the right decision this past trade.
  • echu888
    I was thinking about this too -- my guess so far is that Martin's arrival created a sweet spot in terms of spacing and offensive balance for Scola. The attention that the defense must give to Brooks, Martin, and Battier means Scola is free to spin and shake down low. I haven't theorized on why his rebounding numbers are so high though...
  • bk10
    Nice summary, Rahat. I think Jordan will end up being a very nice player. Of all the clips you showed here, only the left handed layup surprised me a little...I don't remember seeing that in his limited Knick playing time. All the other things (running hard, activity around the boards, facility with the pick and roll etc) have been part of his gradual emergence the last couple of months before the trade.

    One thing the Rockets are probably working with him on is being stronger on finishing at the rim in traffic, and economizing his motion a little. As you've figured out, he tends to flay around a bit, so his shot will drift and he can be prone to turnovers. But his athleticism is good enough to bail him out even when he's wild sometimes.
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