I’m not convinced Harrison Barnes is better than Solomon Hill.
Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the two have quite a bit in common. Hill is a developing three-point threat. He’s still only hanging around the league average as a 33.8% catch-and-shoot player, but that’s not much worse than Barnes at 39.6% when you consider their team situations. Hill played for the stagnant Pacers, Barnes was a part of the beautiful Warriors machine. Put them on the same caliber of team and I don’t think there’s a marked difference.
Hill is a shade better on defense. Both are known for their ability to hold up against bigger power forwards in the post while switching onto small forwards and even guards when necessary. The numbers support Hill as the better player. He held opponents to a field goal percentage 2.6% lower than the average defender whereas opponent’s shot 2% better than usual against Barnes. Indiana’s defense was nearly identical when Hill played versus when he sat, but remember, the player he most often subbed in for was Paul George. Holding down the fort at George’s level is a major achievement.
Hill has even added a bit of a low-post game. He made almost 65% of his shots within three feet of the basket last season. Barnes wasn’t far behind at 62.5%, so it’s just another area where they’re comparable.
Look, Solomon Hill probably isn’t better than Harrison Barnes. But he’s going to make half as much to do the same job for New Orleans. In this offseason climate of everyone getting vastly overpaid, that’s a major win, and it helps settle down the Pelicans’ rotation and playing style going forward.
Few teams have even one big who can capably switch onto guards. But if Hill is at the 4, both he and Anthony Davis theoretically could. That opens up all sorts of defensive opportunities for the Pellies, especially since their point guard Jrue Holliday is huge at 6’4”. They’ll certainly play more like the Warriors, aggressively switching screens, but with Holliday’s size they might even have the freedom to switch 1-5 (as opposed to Golden State, who tends to go 2-4). It’s obviously not something to do on every possession, but that flexibility is key.
Their crunch time offense suddenly makes quite a bit more sense as well. Now it’s easy: Davis plays center, Hill the 4, and Holliday, Buddy Hield and Tyreke Evans make up the final three slots. The combination of shooting and ball-handling with those five is among the best any lineup in all of basketball could throw out, but the switching potential keeps their defense afloat.
Hill isn’t the guy who makes any of this go on his own, just as Barnes isn’t in Golden State, but lineups have five players and all five need to be effective in their own ways. Hill can be for New Orleans what Barnes is for Golden State, an effective role player who excels on both sides of the ball and has positional versatility. He can play small forward in the starting lineup (when Omer Asik presumably is at center) and then shift to power forward in crunch time. He can make shots on the block or the perimeter. He fills blanks for a team that could barely field an NBA team last year. Considering he’s doing in for only $12 million per year or so, that’s an excellent contract.