Every non-Knicks fan is calling Jordan Hill a bust (seriously, how the hell does Hill become #10 of this decades biggest draft busts on Chad Ford's list? Are you kidding me??). Everyone just wants TD to DWTDD. Yet D'Antoni refuses to play these kids. Why? Is it cause they suck? I beg to differ..
Looking back on D'Antoni's coaching years, starting in 2003/04, here are the draft picks/young players he ended up working with:
Maciej Lampe (2nd year...just for jokes)
Leandro Barbosa (1st Round, #29)
Amare Stoudemire (2nd year)
Dijon Thompson (2005, 2nd round #54 overall)
Alondo Tucker (2007, 1st round #29)
DJ Strawbery (2007, 2nd round #59)
Danilo Gallinari (2008, 1st round, #6)
Jordan HIll (2009, 1st round #8)
Toney Douglas (2009, 1st round #29)
Now there are bunch of other career bench players (Casey Jacobsen, Tskitishvili, Andre Barrett, etc) and REAL notable young players who did barely anything until they met D'Antoni (Joe Johnson in his 5th year in 2003/04 for half that year, Diaw in his 3rd year in 2005/06), but for the sake of this argument, I'm going to leave them out. But just for kicks, I would recommend that you click and take a look at Joe Johnson's and Diaw's numbers in the post D'Antoni years. Say what you will about number inflation, these guys STILL produce even after leaving the system, which means I'm guessing there was some coaching that altered these guy's fortunes.
Now, taking a look at the list of young players, I want to concentrate on mainly Leandro Barbosa, who in his rookie year, the Suns went 21-61 (D'Antoni coached 63 of those games). The reason I do this is because Thompson, Alondo, or DJ were NEVER going to get playing time on a championship contending, short rotation team, although DJ did get some time off the pine. Let's look at Barbosa's progression:
So on a terrible, terrible team, Barbosa got a bunch of minutes in 03/04, and under a full season, D'Antoni played him 17.3 Min/game (Barbosa had Jim Jackson ahead of him on the rotation), sure more then Hill and Douglas, but could be comparable up to this point in TD's time this year (13 Min/game). Again, Barbosa wasn't really lighting the world on fire. But lets look at 05/06 and 06/07 seasons, Barbosa minutes increased by 10 minutes in 05/06 and up to 32.7 Min/game in 06/07.
What does this all mean for Jordan Hill and TD?
Well, for Jordan, it just means there are just more experienced players that's blocking him from getting any minutes and I'd be hard pressed to argue that Hill is actually better then any of these guys on the front court: DLee, Gallo, Al Harrington, or Jeffries (from a overall team perspective). Where would Hill's minutes come in? Bender? Probably and you could make a valid argument that Hill could be better then Legs. Still, it's a little hard since there's really no precedence in D'Antoni's previous years with a lottery pick (Amare is the closest comparison, but he was playing Amare a lot of minutes on a trash team in 03/04 AND that was his 2nd year coming off of a Rookie of the Year award) and after all, everyone loves Legs.
Still, call me rosy, I'm still of the mind that Hill just needs more time to develop in the school of the D'Antoni brothers, and will be playing a lot more minutes as he develops or the front court thins out. I don't think Hill's playing because Pringles thinks he sucks, rather, he just has better players he can put in (and they're winning so who's to argue?). Lastly, Summer League tells you if you suck, not that you're good, and while we don't know for sure that Jordan Hill is going to be great, we know he won't suck.
Hill's Summer League #'s below:
Also, for anyone ready to make the 'We Could Have Had Jennings' argument, go ahead, but remember, you're also probably the same guy who wants Lebron and if that's the case, really ask yourself wouldn't Lebron want the ball in his hands, not Jennings? AND, please, let's just see how things go with Jordan Hill over the next 3 years, then let's start comparing when things are all sorted out.
This is a better comparison with Leandro because they're stuck in a similar position: 3rd guard on a 2 PG rotation (Du, Robinson). With Leandro, he was stuck behind Nash and Jim Johnson in 04/05. I'm not comparing the players, although both are more in the defensive, combo guardish mode, I'm just comparing situations. Also, granted Leandro didn't know English well, but regardless, D'Antoni seems to have always chosen to go with proven veterans over any potential upside youngster when given the choice (which is the same case for Jordan Hill's situation).
HOWEVER, and this is important, it doesn't mean he's stunting his growth. Look at Barbosa in 05/06 numbers, nearly doubled his points, stls, and 3's per game (also an additional 10 minutes/game), but D'Antoni has gotten a track record of getting these young kids to develop and play when needed. I feel that this is the same trajectory that TD is going to have, with next year a bigger increase in minutes and year 3, getting some real time.
Remember, it's not the minutes you play, it's what these kids are doing in those minutes. And TD is DWTDD.
Per 36 minutes just for fun:
And remember when a whole lot of us (or maybe it was just me) was yelling at Pringles to play Gallo more? Let's just look at his numbers for fun:
Feel any better? I kind've do.