Over the past few years, one of the minor trends of the G League deals with the growth of Division II alums that have been able to shine. This run started during the 2016-17 season where Alabama-Huntsville alum Josh Magette stood out as one of the league’s better guards by putting up 15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 9.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 41% from field and 35% from beyond the arc for the LA D-Fenders (now South Bay Lakers). That great play eventually led to the Hawks awarding him with a two-way deal in the off-season.
Since Magette signed with the Hawks in the summer of 2017, Jaylen Morris (Atlanta Hawks & Milwaukee Bucks, Haywood Highsmith (Philadelphia 76ers) and Emanuel Terry (Miami Heat & Phoenix Suns) are DII alums that were able to make it from the G League to the NBA. Along with that trio, Lakeland guard John Petrucelli, Long Island forward Thomas Wimbush and Westchester guard Sekou Wiggs are former Division II players that have found some level of success in the G League.
While each of those players has stood out in some particular fashion since leaving school, there’s one DII alum that could exceed those prospects. That potential diamond-in-the-rough prospect is former Shaw guard Amir Hinton, who decided to forgo his senior season and declare for the 2019 NBA Draft. From a statistical standpoint, that decision definitely makes sense as he put up the kind of numbers that you’d usually see from playing rookie mode on NBA 2k.
In 29 games with the team, he averaged 29.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.3 steals on 49% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc on 3.6 attempts per game. With those numbers, the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) named Hinton as their Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season. In addition to that, he joined other fifteen other players on the NABC Division II All-American team.
While those numbers show Hinton as someone that was able to stand out in basically every different way on the basketball court, his biggest strength was obviously as a scorer. The Shaw guard was able to put up those Harden-esque numbers through being an extremely all-around scorer as he was able to shine in transition, mid-range shooting, post-up, on-ball driving and hitting perimeter jumpers. Among those handfuls of skills, his knack when it came to driving to the rim definitely stands out as his premier skill.
From the moment that you watch him take his first step to the basket, you can quickly see Hinton is someone that has been spending years perfecting his craft as an on-ball driver. That training is seen before he even gets to the restricted area as the 6’5 guard is able to utilize incredibly smooth side-steps and euros to create separation from his opponent while on his way to the rim.
Those moves can be done in incredibly tight areas as he’s able to maintain his dribble at times where Division I guards might end up turning the ball over. That great work persists once the Shaw alum gets near the rim as he’s able to finish in traffic or with a smooth left or right-handed layup. If the paint is too crowded, Hinton can decide to throw up a smooth right-handed floater from anywhere around the paint. The two skills are evident in the clip below as he utilizes an off-ball screen to move to the right elbow before using a big sidestep to the left where he then throws up a right-handed floater that goes through the net.
Aside from being able to score around the rim, another area where his skills as a driver come in handy is through allowing him to get to the free throw line. In fact, getting to the charity stripe might actually be his best skill as Hinton shot 89% on 12.4 free throw attempts per game. That combination of a high volume of attempts and efficiency were the keys for him maintaining a 63% True Shooting Percentage. To put Hinton’s mastery of getting to the free-throw line in perspective, Campbell guard Chris Clemons led Division I with 8.6 free throw attempts per game.
Sticking with his work around the paint, Hinton stands as a pretty solid post-up threat considering his status as a young 6’5 guard. Capable of working on both the left and right block, he uses this method to get a better look at around the rim or just nail a fadeaway jumper over the noggin of his defender. While his skills are pretty raw in this area, Hinton has done a nice job of using post-ups as another method to get open looks.
Speaking of getting open shot attempts, the Shaw alum has shown himself to be a solid mid-range threat. Rather than using incredible dribble moves to create separation from the defender, he likes to either utilize an off-ball screen, jab steps head fakes to create separation from his perimeter defender and get to his spot within the perimeter.
An example of Hinton using jab steps to get open looks is seen in the clip below as he uses that move to confuse his defender before quickly taking a dribble to the inside of the 3-point line and nailing a jumper before the opponent is able to get back.
Two offensive skills that Hinton is decent at but will need to develop as he prepares for the pro level is perimeter shooting and facilitating. His potential struggles as a long-range threat is shown by him shooting only 33% from beyond the arc during his three-year college career. Although he does have a solid shooting stroke and can work off the dribble, his inconsistency at the college level can make one wary about how he’ll translate as a pro.
Another area that he’ll have to grow at is as a facilitator. During his junior season, he averaged a career-high 4.1 assists per game with a lackluster 1.1 Ast/TO ratio. While the DII product shows some potential in this area, as he does a nice job of recognizing open players and has a solid understanding of knowing how to work as a drive-and-kick facilitator.
While he’ll need to progress as a facilitator and perimeter shooter, defense is actually an area where Hinton shows a ton of upside. Some of that promise comes from his work as a ball hawk as the DII alum snagged 2.3 steals per game during his junior season. A lot of those steals came through him going away from his man and intercepting passes. Of course, that method gives him an opportunity to push it up the court in transition and get some easy points. Aside from him grabbing a bunch of steals, the jury is still out on his potential as a defender as the guard worked a lot of zone during his time at the Shaw University. That means we didn’t have a chance to see him work a lot in on-ball defense.
As we look to him as a draft prospect, Hinton definitely stands out as a player that any diehard basketball fan should keep an eye on. He’s an extremely talented on-ball driver that can seemingly get to the free throw line whenever he desires. In addition to that, he shows promise as a post-up threat, mid-range shooter and as a ball hawk on the defensive end. However, the Shaw alum definitely has some flaws like efficiency as a perimeter shooter, skill as a passer and ability to adapt in a defense that plays more man-to-man.
Despite those glaring flaws, his impressive ability as a strong 6’5 guard that can make hard drives to the rim, get to the free throw line whenever he desires and work the passing lanes are skills that NBA squads desire in 2019. Although he’ll probably need time in the G League to progress as a perimeter shooter and passer, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get selected in the mid-to-late 2nd round in next month’s NBA Draft. Because in the right system, Amir Hinton has the potential to be a solid 2nd unit player that can work hard on defense and make frequent drives to the rim.