It’s fair to say that the recent decimation of NBA rosters is mostly behind us due to the large number of players in and out of Covid health and safety protocols. But it’s also fair to say it’s not over yet.
With key reserve guard Alex Caruso added to the protocols starting this week, the Chicago Bulls remain undermanned even without the Covid factor. Patrick Williams, Javonte Green, Tyler Cook and Derrick Jones Jr. are all out through injury, and with the roster still short, the Bulls are still entitled to hardship exceptions.
Having previously cast Mac McClung, Jordan Bell, Alfonzo McKinnie, Ersan Ilyasova and Stanley Johnson in such roles, it’s now the turn of a hometown boy. The Bulls announced in a press release today that they have signed Malcolm Hill from Illinois and Fighting Illini alumni on their final 10-day contract.
This is Hill’s first season in the NBA, but not his first NBA contract. Though he had never advanced beyond summer league spots in his career prior to this year, Hill broke the duck by joining the New Orleans Pelicans for training camp in 2021 and then spending ten days as a Covid hardship player with the Atlanta Hawks in late December .
In those ten days, Hill was able to play 46 minutes in three games and they were doing very well. He hit 5-8 shots, including 3-5 from three-point range, for a total of 16 points during that time, along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Despite the tiny sample size, this meant Hill had an offensive score of a whopping 180 at the time, proving its suitability as a plug-and-play candidate.
During those two NBA stints, Hill was in the G-League and has played in 10 games with Pelicans affiliate Birmingham Squadron. In them, the 6’6 wing has averaged 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and achieved a well-above league average 0.667% true shooting percentage, backed by a 40.2% success rate at a high volume is highlighted by three pointers.
This shooting clip is no accident and is the continuation of an upward trend in his outside game since he turned pro in 2017. Over the course of a career that has spanned stints in the Philippines, Israel, Kazakhstan and Germany, Hill has adjusted and improved his offensive profile in this key area.
In his underclassman days, he was perhaps more varied, getting to the free throw line on the drive more regularly, and using more mid-range and post-touches in his game. Now, however, Hill is taking the jump shot more regularly, and it’s improving his NBA chances.
From non-star wings, especially those with short-term call-ups, the NBA often looks for players who fit into a three-and-D model. Players who come in, don’t try to overdo it, take open knights, hit them, commit to defense, are proud of that ending, and know their place in the offensive hierarchy.
With a great frame for an NBA wing and decent athletics as well as good hands and defence, Hill had most of the tools for the job, and now that he’s become a good outside shooter he has them all.
Realistically, Hill may not appear on the rotation at all for the next week and a half and will only get spot minutes at best. However, it should be remembered that only recently it was reported that the team is looking for an experienced defensive wing.
While Hill can’t lay much claim to the “veteran” part, he fits the required player archetype quite well. McKinnie won a full-time spot with his play on his 10-day deal. And so could Hill.