Solo and the Wookie

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Published: November 29, 2016

When Han Solo tried to escape from the clutches of the Imperial Navy through an asteroid field, he knew what he was getting into. With sharp-shooting Imperial TIE Fighters behind and chaotically floating balls of frozen rock in front, the margin of error for Solo was thinner than Leia’s waning patience. Chewy is always around to provide some consistent help, but one or two slips and everything would be done for, the resistance, his love, his life. Such is the margin of error on a game to game basis for Pelicans’ forward “Solo” Hill.

The difference between a “good” game and a “bad” game for Solo normally comes down to a couple plays, as is the life of an NBA role player. With just 4.5 FGA/game, whether he can impact the game positively on the offensive end comes down to if he can hit a couple of those open outside shots he gets. If he misses those looks, or worse, turns it over, his impact on that end of the court immediately takes a turn to the negative. A consistent presence on defense would help widen his margin, but the Pelicans’ Solo hasn’t always had his “wookie” presence this season.

Take the Pels most recent loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Solo at times displayed some great individual defense.

via GIPHY

He is matched up with opponents’ best perimeter players a lot of the time, so he isn’t going to make a play every single possession. Against the Mavs, Harrison Barnes is one of the NBA’s best isolation scorers this season, so naturally things like this are bound to happen from time to time:

via GIPHY

And that is ok, as long as Hill is engaged and challenging opponents throughout the game. He and the team actually did a pretty good job most of the night on Barnes, who managed an inefficient 23 points on 24 shots. But then there are plays like this:

via GIPHY

He was simply flat-footed and lost focus on his guy. These plays are happening too often and shouldn’t happen at all. Hill is supposed to be the team’s lead perimeter defender, this is the opposite of setting the tone on that end.

Hill right now is not a terrible fit offensively despite his lack of production. You don’t ask or expect much from him, but with higher usage guys around him you could see how he fits (getting better, higher usage guys will be the key). He moves and keeps the ball moving, and as long as he remains aggressive and doesn’t pass up open looks it “works.” His 3pt% is about at his career average of 32.5, which isn’t great, but for now you just look for him to keep taking the open looks. The Pels shoot better and their scoring efficiency goes up when he is on the court but where he needs to make his mark is on the other end.

He is making plays on that end, I will say that. For players with between 400 and 500 minutes played, he’s towards the top of the group in steals and above the middle in blocks. But those plays are basically undone when he falls asleep on another play and allows an easy bucket. The Pels are much improved in the “effort” category this season from game to game, but that focus and effort needs to more consistent throughout the game. After dropping 2 in a row the Pels have an opportunity tonight to right the ship against a Lakers team missing its lead guard.

With Dante Cunningham still out, Solo will continue to see a good amount of minutes, can he start setting the tone a little more consistently on that end of the court?

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