With Solomon Hill injury, Pelicans face talent deficit at small forward spot

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Solomon Hill, Mark Gasol

No matter what they do, it seems the cloud of injury continues to linger over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The team announced Sunday that forward Solomon Hill will miss most, if not all, of the 2017-18 season with a hamstring injury.

Hill, who has already undergone surgery, is expected to need anywhere from 6-8 months to recover.

This news is a clear blow for a Pelicans team that was counting on Hill to show development as the team’s starting small forward.

Hill proved he was an above-average perimeter defender last season, often drawing the opponent’s best outside scorer. His biggest drawback was his inconsistent offense. Last season, Hill averaged 7.0 points per game on 38.3 percent shooting.

Even more than his production, the Pelicans lose depth on the wing, something they have precious little of already.

Quincy Pondexter and Darius Miller are now the only small forwards remaining on the roster. Pondexter has missed the last two seasons with injury and Miller is trying to reestablish himself as an NBA player after spending two years in Europe.

Dell Demps and Alvin Gentry will have to be creative in addressing this situation. With the team already near the hard cap, it will be very hard to go outside the organization for talent.

Jalen Jones, currently on a two-way G-League deal, could be brought up, but by the terms of his contract he is limited to 45 days with the big club.

Dante Cunningham has to be smiling. The free agent forward had his best season in New Orleans last year, and is better offensively than Hill. The market for his services hasn’t been hot, but his value to the Pelicans is only increased by this development. He should probably expect a phone call in the very near future.

The Pelicans could try to stretch Omer Asik’s contract to get him off the roster and lessen his damage to the team’s salary cap. Asik has been an underachiever when healthy, and his recovery from the bacterial infection that caused him to lose significant weight is still an unknown. Now may be the perfect time to let him walk.

Alexis Ajinca would be another possible chip to move via trade, but Gentry seems to like him and he is a viable backup at the center position.

Beyond that, options are limited or nonexistent.

More pressure now falls on the shoulders of Jrue Holiday and possibly E’Twaun Moore. Holiday has be an aggressive scorer on a nightly basis and Moore will probably see his minutes increase if the Pelicans implement more three-guard lineups this season.

No matter what the Pelicans do, the Hill injury is certainly a setback. To what degree remains to be seen.

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David Grubb

Sports 1280am host/CCS reporter

David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…

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