With Reggie Bullock sidelined late in November, Darrun Hilliard was given more run in the early stages of the season than what was expected before the 2017 campaign started. Even with Bullock injured and no other backup shooting guard ahead of Hilliard on the depth chart, he played just 1 more game than in his previous season, as he struggled mightily for the majority of the time he was on the court.
Shooting, which was a strength during Hillard’s rookie season, became a liability for him this year, as his 3pt% steeply declined, going from an above average 38% in 2015-’16 to a Josh Smith-like 26% in ’16-’17. Along with his disappointing season from beyond the arc, his overall shooting percentage dipped as well, going from an already bad 39% to a ghastly 37% in limited minutes. While this efficiency drop wasn’t necessarily expected, Hilliard has shown to be an extremely streak shooter throughout his first couple seasons. With around the same playing time, his rebounding and assist numbers stayed virtually the same, taking just a slight hit.
While Hilliard wasn’t given many opportunities for improvement on the court this season, it was disheartening to see a sophomore shooting slump from the third-string combo guard. With reports saying the Pistons will match any offer for starter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the possibility of them bringing Reggie Bullock back on an extension, it will be hard for Hilliard to work his way back into the rotation. This is especially true after his dismal season, where he disappointed for the majority of the season outside of a couple solid performances early in the year and later playing meaningless minutes after the team was already lottery bound.
While it’s unlikely Hilliard will get rotation minutes to prove himself in the upcoming season, he must improve on the thing he was known for going into the NBA: shooting the three. Without a reliable three-point shot, Hilliard won’t be sticking in the league much longer, possibly being waived by Detroit, and afterward will struggle to find another shot around the league. However, even with his shooting woes, he has shown flashes of his other strengths. He showed potential as a playmaker in the limited minutes. He needs to continue to grow as a player with the ball in his hand; a crucial aspect of a modern NBA guard, especially one that can’t find his shot.
Being under team control for at least the next two seasons, Hilliard’s future relies entirely on his own shoulders, as he needs to prove himself to coach Stan Van Gundy that he legitimately belongs on an NBA roster.
Featured Image via – Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)