Why Solomon Hill’s time with the Pacers is over

Free agency is about to be wild. More money is available than ever as the salary cap skyrockets from $70 to an estimated $94 million.

That also means some teams will have to spend just to reach the cap floor, and could end up overpaying to do so.

All this benefits a guy like Solomon Hill, who was drafted by the Indiana Pacers 23rd overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. Last fall, the Pacers had a decision to make on the wing and they ultimately declined to pick up the fourth-year team option of his rookie contract.

Solomon Hill averaged 7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in his first two years as a pro.

Solomon Hill averaged 7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in his first two years as a pro.

Hill was coming off of a horrible showing in Summer League — 4.7 points per game on 4-of-22 shooting — and he contributed zip up through three regular season games. He had played a total of two minutes.

“I’m probably at the bottom rotation, bottom of the depth chart,” Hill said then. “Just there if you need me.”

His lack of production, which resulted in limited playing time was puzzling, too, because he was the only Pacer to have played in all 82 games during the 2014-15 season, including 78 starts.

So, instead of getting him another year on the cheap — $2.3 million — Hill was set to become an unrestricted free agent.

“At the rate in which I’m playing, I’m kind of guessing what will happen, which is not a bad thing at all,” Hill said ahead of his Nov. 2 deadline.

Not a bad thing, at all. Especially after the way he closed out the season.

Hill averaged 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in April. He gained confidence in his shot as his opportunities grew, hitting 13-of-24 3s in the final five games. That after shooting 24-of-74 (32.4 percent) in a limited role until then.

Some of his teammates singled out Solo midway through the season in interviews with the media. I can distinctly remember C.J. Miles bringing up Hill on his own and how he deserves not just a larger role, but a role of some kind. He was working too hard and could help the team.

Once Hill understood his role — playing hard every minute he’s out there, lock down on defense and do the little things — good things started to happen for him.

In the playoffs he was even better: 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, going 11-for-19 (58 percent) from downtown. Steady numbers.

Pacers President Larry Bird made a calculated risk declining their option, one that in hindsight doesn’t look very good. But back then, he didn’t have evidence needed to confidently pick it up and guarantee Hill’s contract.

Instead, it turned out to be the best thing for Solo. It was motivation and it was his new reality. He got in shape, worked harder, smarter, and more confidently.

By season’s end, Hill knew what he had just done for himself. But he also spoke about how money isn’t everything and that he took a lot away from David West’s decision, choosing winning and a strong culture over money. He’ll be mature and deliberate about his decision, one that isn’t expected to include the Pacers.

Because they declined their team option on his rookie deal, the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not allow the Pacers to offer Hill more money than his option was for, $2.3 million.

Pacers are over the Hills…

Now, on the eve of NBA Free Agency, the 25-year-old forward from Cali is in line for his first big contract. After LeBron James and Kevin Durant, it doesn’t appear to be a very strong bunch of free agents.

And, I should remind you: Teams have money to spend.

It wouldn’t shock me at all if a team paid Hill $9 million annually. That would be almost 6.5 times what he earned in his third season, $1.4 million.

The Pacers had every Hill in the NBA on their roster this past season season. By next week they won’t have any of them.

Just a pair of Young’s and George’s.

[Pacers acquire Jeff Teague from Hawks, send George Hill to Jazz in three-team deal]

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