Jordan Hill’s Big Night

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 Houston Rockets’ 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 Houston Rockets have 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 Houston 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 former Houston Rockets 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 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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