It is fair to say that the recent decimation of NBA rosters due to the huge numbers of players going into and out of Covid health and safety protocols is, in large part, behind us. But it is also fair to say that it is not yet over.
With important reserve guard Alex Caruso going into the protocols as of this week, the Chicago Bulls continue to be short-handed, even without the Covid factor. Patrick Williams, Javonte Green, Tyler Cook and Derrick Jones Jr are all out through injury, and so with the roster still running short, the Bulls are still eligible for hardship exemptions.
Having previously signed Mac McClung, Jordan Bell, Alfonzo McKinnie, Ersan Ilyasova and Stanley Johnson to such fill-in roles before, it is now the turn of a hometown boy. The Bulls today announced in a press release that they had signed Illinois native and Fighting Illini alumni Malcolm Hill to their latest 10-day contract spot, as they try to maintain their strong challenge in the East.
Who is Malcolm Hill
This is Hill’s first season in the NBA, but not his first NBA contract. Although he had never progressed beyond summer league spots in his career prior to this year, Hill broke the duck by joining up with the New Orleans Pelicans for training camp in 2021, and then spending ten days as a Covid hardship player with the Atlanta Hawks at the end of December.
In those ten days, Hill was able to play 46 minutes across three games, and they went very well. He hit 5-8 shots, including 3-5 from three-point range, for a total of 16 points in that time, along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Notwithstanding the tiny sample size, this meant an offensive rating for Hill of a giant 180 in that time, a testament to his suitability as a plug-and-play candidate.
Around these two NBA stints, Hill has been in the G-League, appearing in 10 games to date with the Pelicans’ affiliate, the Birmingham Squadron. In them, the 6’6 wing has averaged 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, shooting a far above league average .667% true shooting percentage, highlighted by a 40.2% success rate on a high volume of three pointers.
Ready to Play
This shooting clip is no accident, and is the continuation of an upward trend in his outside game ever since turning professional in 2017. Across his career, which has incorporated stints in the Philippines, Israel, Kazakhstan and Germany, Hill has adjusted his offensive profile and improved 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 employing more mid-range and post touches into his game. Now, though, Hill more regularly embraces the jump shot, and it is enhancing his NBA chances.
From non-star wings, especially those on short-term call-ups, the NBA often looks for players that fit a three-and-D model. Players who will come in, not try to do too much, take open jumpers, hit them, commit on defence, take pride on that end and know their place on the offensive hierarchy.
With a great frame for an NBA wing and decent athleticism, plus good hands and effort on the defensive end, Hill had most of the tools for the job, and now that he has become a good outside shooter, he has them all.
Realistically, Hill may not figure in the rotation at all over this next week and a half, and may only get spot minutes at best. It should however be remembered that it was only recently reported that the team was looking for a veteran defensive wing.
Although Hill cannot lay much claim to the ‘veteran’ part, he does quite nicely fit the player archetype required. McKinnie won a full-time spot with his play on his 10-day deal. And so could Hill.