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Who still believes in Hilton Armstrong?

Published: July 29, 2008

I feel kinda bad for Hilton Armstrong. He seems like a nice kid, his coaches and teammates generally speak well of him, and he's been known to do some great work in the community. But the Hornets' young big hasn't lived up to expectations on the hardwood, and so he gets labeled as a bust by the fans, and he's left with zero friends on MySpace.

Hilton just recently got done playing for the Hornets summer league squad in Las Vegas, where he averaged 14 points and 5.7 boards in 31 minutes per game. Those numbers don't sound bad, but they don't tell the whole story. This is what Ryan had to say about Hilton's Vegas adventure in a Summer League wrap-up post last week:

I'm past worrying about Hilton Armstrong. He had a couple strong scoring games, but overall, he was terrible. He is STILL prone to stupid fouls. He still hasn't been able to put on enough muscle – so he gets pushed away from the basket too easily. His hands are poor, and he gets stripped all the time, and he takes way too long to gather himself to dunk, giving defenders extra time to close on him and knock the ball loose. He also shows almost no instinct for rebounding – consistently misjudging his position and timing when going up for the boards. If he has any trade value – I hope we use it.

What follows isn't to disagree with Ryan's assessment, but I'd just like to throw it out there and see what kind of faith — if any — people have left in Armstrong. Here's a table comparing his rookie and sophomore seasons to those of David West…

West vs. Armstrong – Averages
  Games Minutes FG% Points
Rookie West
 71 13.1 .474 3.8 4.2
Rookie Armstrong
56 11.4 .544 3.1 2.7
Soph West 30 18.4 .436 6.2 4.3
Soph Armstrong
65 11.3 .453 2.7 2.5

Let's make some adjustments so the comparison is a little more fair. Here's how the numbers look per 36 minutes…

West vs. Armstrong – Per 36 Minutes
  Games Minutes FG% Points Rebounds
Rookie West
 71 36.0 .474 10.6 11.5
Rookie Armstrong
56 36.0 .544 9.9 8.4
Soph West 30 36.0 .436 12.1 8.4
Soph Armstrong
65 36.0 .453 8.8 8.0

More stats for your perusal…

As I suspected would be the case, the numbers are not drastically different. Granted, the young David West posted slightly better stats, but wouldn't it be nice if Armstrong could take off in his third year and even become half the player West is today?

There are of course plenty of things you can point at which may skew this comparison one way or the other. For example, you could say that West would have had a much better sophomore year if not for the knee injury that cost him 51 games. Likewise, you could say that Hilton has had the misfortune of playing his first two years on a better team in a better conference with better players ahead of him in the rotation.

So, does anyone think Hilton can follow in West's footsteps and finally put it together in his third pro season, or have you given up hope that he'll amount to anything other than a wasted draft pick?

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