INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Pacers may not have gotten the new shooting guard everyone expected in Thursday night's NBA draft.
Instead, they found someone who fits their system and might cause even more headaches for the league's top offenses.
The Pacers pulled one of the bigger first-round surprises Thursday night by selecting 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward Solomon Hill of Arizona with the 23rd pick overall — a guy few draft analysts expected to go that high.
"We graded out his defensive possessions and we thought he was terrific defensively," general manager Kevin Pritchard said. "As (coach) Frank (Vogel) got more involved, he really liked him, too. We think he's going to be a good defensive player and that's our culture."
If Hill performs like the Pacers anticipate, it could make their already tough defense even better.
Indiana led the NBA last season in defensive field goal percentage, defensive 3-point field goal percentage and rebounding and finished second in points allowed per game. Hill gives Indiana another long defender with a defense-first mentality and he's not a bad shooter, either.
Last season at Arizona, the senior forward shot 45.8 percent from the field and had averages of 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists. The scouting report calls him a "very good" 3-point shooter who finishes strong at the rim and gets to the free-throw line frequently — all facets the Pacers can use on a bench that struggled mightily against Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.
Pritchard believes the Pacers' newest player can defend point guards, shooting guards and small forwards, and said teams interested in acquiring Hill started calling almost as soon as Commissioner David Stern made the announcement.
"My job is playing defense and spreading the floor," Hill said on a conference call with reporters. "I have to practice early, I have to work hard and try be that guy who comes off the bench and plays well."
Hill was an all-Pac 12 selection each of his final two seasons at Arizona and finished second on the team in scoring and rebounding in 2012-13. He considered leaving school after his junior season but decided to return, in part, because he didn't want to finish his college career with the sour taste of a first-round NIT loss to Bucknell.
The Pacers started watching Hill closely in November and noted that when the Wildcats improved late in the season, Hill was playing a larger role and was becoming a more consistent shooter. They were so intrigued that they brought him to Indianapolis twice for workouts, and Hill said he could tell there was a different vibe the second time — with Vogel watching.