Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. What was Grant Hill’s lasting impact on the Pistons?
Patrick Hayes: Leaving. It’s unfortunate, because Hill was a brilliant player as a Piston who deserves to be both applauded for what he did on some truly poorly constructed teams and also vilified for leaving as any star player would be, but because his departure was softened by acquiring a star who ushered in a new golden age in Ben Wallace, Hill’s Pistons career isn’t looked back on with great reverence or anger. I was a huge Grant Hill fan, I truly appreciated his effort as a Piston and was devastated when he left. But with the benefit of hindsight, leaving was the best thing he did for the franchise.
Brady Fredericksen: Angry, exciting and confusing. He was flat-out great in Detroit. You can talk about all of the ankle problems he had once he left Detroit — or even howhe left the team for greener pastures in Orlando — but when he was with the Pistons, few could compare. Patrick noted it in his post yesterday, but Hill put together some eye-popping numbers while player with old or average-at-best talent. The Detroit version of Hill was one of the league’s best players in one of the NBA’s deepest eras for star talent.
Dan Feldman: Getting them Ben Wallace. As good as Hill was with the Pistons, Wallace was better. Hill is no Milt Pappas, but his contributions will still be remembered more for the trade that sent him away. Hill never got the Pistons out of the first round, and he spent most of his time with the Pistons wearing a teal jersey. It wasn’t an ugly era of Detroit basketball (except for the uniforms), but it certainly wasn’t an inspiring one. The Wallace era was much brighter, and his teams were a perfect embodiment of the city. Fair or not, that leaves Hill’s lasting impact as only slightly more than a footnote to acquiring Wallace.
2. Should the Pistons retire Hill’s No. 33 jersey?
Patrick Hayes: Maybe. Detractors have already pointed to the fact that he played just six seasons as a Piston and didn’t leave under the greatest of circumstances. But there is precedent. The team just retired Dennis Rodman’s jersey, and he played only seven seasons as a Piston, forced his way out of town by making his unhappiness abundantly cleared and later won three titles with the Bad Boys’ greatest rivals in Chicago. The Pistons will also have interesting decisions with the members of their 2004 championship core. Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace didn’t have exceedingly long careers in Detroit, and all three left with varying degrees of turmoil (though Wallace later returned). It’s true, they have a title and Hill doesn’t, but he’s also a likely Hall of Famer. I’m on the fence. As a compromise, the Pistons should retire Hill’s 33, but do it on a teal banner. That way, they can effectively ‘retire’ but also pay tribute to that entire lost era all at once. Let players continue to wear 33 as long as the jersey is using the classic color scheme. But if the team ever switches back to teal again, 33 won’t be worn. Sound fair?
Brady Fredericksen: Yes. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it doesn’t matter that Hill’s shortish tenure in Detroit didn’t yield any real playoff success — he’s one of the franchise’s best. There were very few guys who were as great as Hill during his Pistons’ years, and he was a staple in the MVP voting, finishing as high as third in 1995-96. He was just so good, even if only for a short time, that you can’t ignore it. Hall of Famer Bob Lanier struggled to lift some below-average Pistons’ teams to the promise land, too.
Dan Feldman: No. Hill played just six years for the Pistons. There was debate whether Dennis Rodman’s seven years with the team were enough to justify his jersey retirement, and though I said yes in that case, six years from a player who never won a playoff series falls well short seven years from a player who won two championships. Hill chose to turn his back on the Pistons in 2000, and while any anger has long subsided, they don’t need to embrace him now with such an honor.
3. Taking his entire basketball career into perspective, does Grant Hill join Jason Kidd in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018?
Patrick Hayes: Maybe. I’m sure Hill is going into the Hall of Fame. I’m not convinced he’ll be a first-ballot guy. His accomplishments in six years pre-injury were great, and his four-year career at Duke was one of the best college careers in recent NCAA history, so that helps his case too. His reputation as a nice guy with the media shouldn’t build his or anyone’s case, but it inevitably will. And, if we’re talking in an intangible way, the fact that he came back from devastating injuries at such an advanced age and became a reliable and healthy rotation player late into his 30s is worthy of discussing. Hill is going to the Hall of Fame, but unlike Kidd, I don’t think he deserves to get the honor in his first year of eligibility.
Brady Fredericksen: Eventually, he will. They call it the Basketball Hall of Fame, which means there’s more to it than just the NBA side of things. There’s a legitimate argument that Hill is the quintessential face of college hoops. He was a college star, an NBA star and a gold medalist in the 1996 Olympics. Hill’s impact on basketball has been something that few have replicated; and he had one of the greatest revivals after joining the Phoenix Suns late in his career. It might not be on the first-ballot, but he’ll be in — I mean, no one has been able to pull off the teal quite like Hill did.
Dan Feldman: I rarely predict whether players will make the Hall of Fame, simply because the process is so convoluted and the choices are so seemingly arbitrary. I don’t like the Hall of Fame’s setup, honoring all basketball accomplishments as if coaching/playing well in college and coaching/playing well in the NBA are remotely equal, but that’s the system. I’ll break my rule in this case, because Hill is a lock. If Hill had never played in the NBA, his time at Duke alone probably would get him in. Add a long, productive NBA career – one that included an extremely high, if short-lived, peak – and Hill’s likable personality, and there’s no way the fools who pick Hall of Famers will leave him out. I would thoroughly enjoy a debate on whether Hill belongs in a hypothetical NBA Hall of Fame, though.