Jordan Hill to play a big part in Lakers' free agency plans

Lakers must decide whether to keep Jordan Hill on the roster before free agency begins

Jordan Hill hadn't appeared in many games lately, exiled to the end of the bench as the Lakers went with younger, less experienced players.

Don't worry, though. He'll play a large part in tipping off the Lakers' free-agency plans.

The team holds a $9-million option on Hill that has to be executed after the June 25 draft but before free agency begins June 30 at 9:01 p.m.

If the team keeps Hill, chances are they don't think they can get a quality big man in free agency. But if they decline the option, they might feel they're on to something. Or at least chasing someone more consistent than Hill.

Among big men, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and Paul Millsap are in the possible free-agent pool.

Assuming the Lakers end up with a top-five draft pick, something that won't be known until after the May 19 lottery, they'll have about $24 million in cap room if they decline Hill's player option. But that number drops to about $15 million if they keep Hill, probably not enough to land a top free agent.

Is Hill worth keeping? Depends what part of this season you study.

He was the team's most consistent player in November, averaging 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds while showing solid range on his retooled jumper. After a statistical drop in December, he was also solid in January.

Then the rest of the season happened.

Hill, 27, has been averaging 11.1 points and eight rebounds since the All-Star break, not to mention only 42.5% accuracy.

What happened?

"He was playing a lot of minutes early, and I think it probably took its toll on him, and he wasn't used to it," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. "That's why all of a sudden, you stop fighting in the post and you start settling for jump shots because it's a little bit easier."

If Hill returns to the Lakers, Scott wants better off-season conditioning from him.

"It's just like a boxer — you better train 15,000 hours to get prepared for 15 rounds," he said. "I don't think he did that [last] summer to get ready for the season. He's got to train like he's going to play 48 minutes every single night.

"I think he can be the guy we had the first month. I really do. This is probably the most he's played in any year that he's been in the NBA. Maybe that's why his production has kind of gone down."

Boozer back

Carlos Boozer, like Hill, has sat out a lot of recent games. He returned Monday against the Kings.

Scott was recently asked about Boozer, whose only season with the Lakers hasn't quite gone as planned.

"I think the first time I took him out of the starting lineup, obviously we butted heads a little bit. But ever since then, he's handled it pretty well," Scott said. "We haven't had any problems."

Boozer will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He was averaging 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds before Monday, numbers that would be the lowest since his rookie season.

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan

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