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What kind of player was Grant Hill?

At one point in the 1990s, Grant Hill’s Pistons jersey was one of the most popular amongst NBA fans, mainly down to just how good Hill was in the NBA. 

What kind of player was Grant Hill? Grant Hill was an incredibly talented all-around player standing at 6ft8 and 220lbs. He scored freely through good shooting and driving to the paint. Hill was also a good rebounder and facilitator, often leading the Pistons in points, rebounds and assists. He was a Small Forward who occasionally played as a Shooting Guard.

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When Grant Hill retired in 2013, he was looked at as one of the biggest “what if” players in the history of the NBA. If it was not for ankle injuries, we could have looked at Grant Hill as one of the best players of all time. Instead, he is looked at as having missed out on his full potential. 

But often that can take away from just how good Grant Hill was when he was with the Detroit Pistons. When Michael Jordan retired, it seemed like Hill was the player to take over Jordan’s role as the best all-around player in the NBA. Of course, this never materialised due to those nasty ankle injuries and a near-fatal infection. 

While NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Lebron James have been compared to Jordan, Hill was the original because of the similarities in their games. It begins with his work on offence. 

Hill was a proper 1990s NBA player, developing tremendous abilities in the pick and roll that made the Pistons offence tick. If he got the switch that he wanted, Hill could work his game in isolation and take on any defender. While he was never the smoothest ball handler, Hill could still slip past any defender and drive to the hoop. 

If the defender took the space inside, Hill was able to knock down threes at a decent rate, particularly when he was with the Suns in his later career. In Phoenix, Hill had two seasons where he averaged 40% or more from the three-point line, both seasons in which he played 80 or more games. 

Across his career, Hill was a good shooter, averaging 48% from the field. His shooting was a skill that Hill had to develop for his longevity in the NBA. The quickness and agility was not the same after his consistent ankle injuries so Hill could not rely on his physical attributes like that again. 

It is why Hill focused more on his shooting after finally getting healthy around 2005. It fitted the role that Hill would have in his later career. He became a role player who was more than reliable as a shooter, able to be fed the ball by the excellent distribution of Steve Nash when in Phoenix. 

Hill was also a good distributor himself, particularly in his time in Detroit. As the primary ball handler of the Pistons and he was able to find his support players often enough. Even without any excellent shooters, Hill had six seasons with the Pistons where he averaged more than 5 assists per game. 

The Pistons were often one of the top offensive teams in the NBA while he was there. Part of this was of course down to Hill’s play himself, but he was also able to create a high-functioning offence despite a lack of star talent on the squad. 

Essentially, Hill was able to create some really high-efficiency shots for his teammates. Rebounding is not something that you would usually associate with scoring guards, but Hill had plenty of games where he was the top rebounder for the Pistons. In fact, Hill had back-to-back seasons where he was the top rebounder for the Pistons. 

His age 23 season was particularly impressive for rebounding as he averaged more rebounds per game than towering centres like Vlade Divac, Arvydas Sabonis and former Duke teammate Christian Laettner. Hill was always a contributor to his team with rebounds. 

Here’s a little taster of Hills all around ability…

Hill was also a good contributor on defence but nothing special. He would take the major assignments without any fuss. The defence was never the main part of his game but it was still an impressive asset of Hill’s. His combination of size and speed made Hill an athletic defender who could defend space quickly. 

But there was some criticism of his IQ in defence. Hill would often be instructed to double team as he was incredibly agile and could cover a large amount of space with his combination of size and speed. But the issue was that Hill would often double team at the wrong time and at times he would even not put a hand up when his opposing player took a shot. 

So in terms of defence, it was never his strongest element. But Hill was able to get away with it because he was so good on offence and covered the space really well on defence even if his effort was not always there. 

So if you take a look back at his prime, Grant Hill was an all-around player. If he played in today’s NBA, Hill could pretty easily have a season similar to Russell Westbrook’s as he was a constant triple-double threat. Hill was an athletic player who was incredibly dangerous in attack. 

His playing style changed after a serious injury and it is hardly surprising. He went through an incredible amount of trouble with injuries and never fully got the same rotation in his ankle afterwards. It meant for longevity, Hill became a very different player.

After injury, Hill became a reliable veteran who was able to be one of the best shooters for the Suns, receiving the ball from one of the best distributors in the history of the NBA, Steve Nash. Hill became a knockdown three-point shooter who did not have the same driving ability. 

If you just look at it positionally, Hill played his entire career as a small forward, although he did have one season with the Orlando Magic where he played shooting guard.