Who are you Darrun Hilliard? Lukas Feldhaus breaks down Maccabi Tel Aviv’s new swingman

Jun 26, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Euroleague veteran Darrun Hiliard has signed a one-year deal with Maccabi Tel Aviv for the 2022/23 season. The swingman arrives in Israel after playing this past season with Bayern Munich while also having featured with Baskonia and CSKA Moscow in his 4-year continental career. Hilliard also had stints in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs accumulating 91 appearances in the world’s greatest league.

Hilliard is an experienced marksman who also doesn’t shy away from contact while displaying good shooting ability and can defend both the shooting guard and small forward positions. The Villanova product brings athleticism, good court vision and the ability to score with both hands – shooting from deep with the left and finishing at the rim with the right.

“I’m very thankful to wear the Maccabi uniform and represent everything that comes with it,” Hilliard said. “Many great players came to Tel Aviv with high expectations to win and I hope my teammates and I can bring that same great passion and drive to be successful.”

“Darrun is a proven EuroLeague scorer with great size for the SG/SF positions,” Head Coach Oded Kattash said. “He is a very good shooter who can also create separation off the dribble. Darrun has played in high level systems over the last 3 seasons. He is a family man with great character.”
The 29-year old was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and grew up playing football, but was attracted to the basketball court, where his father Darrun Sr. played in high school. Darrun Jr starred in the local high school basketball scene and received a full scholarship to play for the Villanova Wildcats. Under coach Jay Wright, Hilliard made strides from year to year, eventually averaging 14.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in his senior year. In the 2015 NBA Draft, he was chosen in the second round at 38th overall by the Detroit Pistons.

Hilliard went on to play 77 games in the Motor City, also spending time for the Pistons G-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive. He was then shipped in trades to Houston and the Clippers and eventually found himself in San Antonio in September 2017. Darrun played scarcely for the Spurs and found himself once again in the G-League. In the summer of 2018, he set sail and landed in Europe.

Darrun Hilliard – Photo Credir: Dov Halickman

After signing for Baskonia, he immediately became a center piece for the club scoring 9.4 points per game in 20.5 minutes. The next summer, he moved to CSKA Moscow, where he contributed 10.6 PPG with 41.2% from deep in his first season. After posting 8.7 PPG and 2 RPG in his second season in Russia, Hilliard joined Bayern.

With the Bavarians, the SG/SF delivered his finest EuroLeague season to date last season, scoring 13.7 PPG. He made 50% of his two-pointers, 38.5% of his threes, grabbed 3 rebounds per contest and added 1.1 steals. In the competitive German league, he had 10.7 points, 2.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. However, injuries limited Hilliard to just 20 Euroleague contests and 12 BBL clashes.

WHO ARE YOU DARRUN HILLIARD? – By Lukas Feldhaus, The Sports Rabbi’s European Basketball Expert
Bayern signed Darrun Hilliard for a major role last year. With four of their five leading scorers in EL leaving or not available for a long time (Paul Zipser), they needed players who could score the ball.

Bayern’s Sporting Director Daniele Baiesi recently said in a MagentaSport podcast that Andrea Trinchieri wanted to transform his role a little bit. Trinchieri wanted him to handle the ball for the team after he had been more of a pure scorer for Baskonia and Moscow. As he missed about half of the season due to a knee and a clavicle injury, respectively, it is difficult to judge his season. I think he did a solid job but he was not really a big-impact player. His game was actually pretty inconsistent. In some games, he shined as a scorer but struggled with turnovers. In other games, he had limited playing time because his defense was problematic.

Overall, he showed a lot of really promising glimpses, especially as a scorer. However, with his knee injury in early December, Bayern’s plan with him was more or less canceled. He came back in March but he could then never showcase his full potential. What is extremely unfortunate that he suffered that knee injury after two EuroLeague games with 20 and 28 points, respectively. Thus, when he might have found consistency, he had to sit out for three months.

As a player, I think his biggest strength is the combination of his shooting touch, his strong body and his decent ball handling and footwork. He is primarily a shooter, but he can use his shot in many different situations, whether it is in catch-and-shoot situations, in post-ups, or off dribble. He operates with a lot of lateral moves. Bayern’s GM Marko Pesic said that Hilliard’s knee injury was a major setback especially because he is so reliant on his lateral moves. Thus, when he came back from that injury, he was a bit rusty and also a bit prone to travelling because he really likes to operate with side-step attacks when attacking close-outs. He also likes to create his shot off crossovers with a wide amplitude. After his knee injury, it seemed that he needed time to find his explosiveness and timing back.

His main weaknesses are quickness and his court vision. Granted, he sometimes finds the way the rim with the help of his strong body and his ability to finish with either hands (he is actually right-handed, but uses his left hand for jump shots). However, he is quite reliant on his jump shot from mid-range or from 3 as he struggles a bit to create separation. He is quick off his first step but his acceleration is not great. Moreover, his passing is not very accurate. His assist numbers have been similar to his turnover statistics over his career. That’s why he is not a primary ball handler. His limitations in terms of quickness also limit him a bit on the defensive end. He sometimes struggles to contain guards. That’s why Andrea Trinchieri often put him at the 3 position defensively (maybe even mainly). However, his strong body helps him to be a very solid switch defender. He can take over big men for switching.

All in all, he is a wing scorer with great strengths in shooting both off the dribble and off the catch. Moreover, he is a team guy. He supported his team a lot even he was injured. His passion for the game is amazing. Daniele Baiesi said on the MagentaSport podcast that Hilliard was in tears after his clavicle injury against Barcelona.

I think his play style can be compared to James Nunnally’s game. Both are really good shooters. I think that Hilliard is a bit more versatile when it comes to creating his own shot. A lot will depend on how Hilliard comes back from his injuries.

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