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Five things Jordan Hill needs for a successful season

This is the 10th post in a series focusing on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2012-13 season.

1. Jordan Hill should be ready for a short-term starting lineup role: Only five months ago, it appeared Hill was nothing more than part of a throw-in deal for the Lakers to relieve salary cap space. Now it’s possible he may earn a temporary spot in the starting lineup. With the strong possibility that center Dwight Howard will miss the season opener Oct. 30 against Dallas and games beyond that, Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick reported that it’s likely Hill will start at power forward while Pau Gasol slides over to fill in at center.

That moves makes sense for several reasons. Hill’s defense is superior to that of Antawn Jamison. And it means Jamison could spread out the scoring punch on the Lakers’ bench.

Also, Hill’s instincts and hustle should mesh well with a unit that features plenty of scoring talent in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Gasol; his presence could help the rest of the starting lineup conserve their energy.

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2. Hill needs to stay healthy: Now that Andrew Bynum is out of L.A., Lakers fans can center their health concerns on Hill. Throughout his three-year NBA career, he has struggled with injuries.

He sat out most of his first month with the Lakers because of an MCL sprain in his right knee. He played only 32 games with Houston last season, partly for the same reason.

If Hill is to assume a larger role with the Lakers in the upcoming season, they can’t afford to go through those same issues.

3. Hill needs to provide a consistent spark: Once given an opportunity, Hill endeared himself to the Lakers coaching staff with his hard work.

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He may have lacked knowledge of the Lakers’ playbook and schemes (more on that later), but he provided value just playing off his instincts.

Considering the Lakers’ talent-heavy roster, those traits will likely continue to be the main way he can help the team. Whether it’s hustling for loose balls, grabbing rebounds or just being open for double teams, his presence should be a plus.

On the reserve unit, Hill has the added responsibility of ensuring that the Lakers’ defense remains strong. Jamison’s defensive skills are pretty limited inside, and, although scrappy, guard Steve Blake doesn’t have the speed to stop fast point guards. So it will largely fall to Hill to protect the rim.

4. Hill will need to expand his game: Even with the value Hill’s energy can bring, he won’t be able to catch opponents by surprise anymore. In fact, Denver Coach George Karl labeled Hill as a “wild card” for his two double-double efforts in the Lakers’ seven-game first-round playoff series against the Nuggets, simply because they hadn’t anticipated his presence.

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That’s going to put pressure on Hill to add something to his game beyond energy. He appears raw offensively, with limited post moves. And although his defense remains solid, it also appears he’d get lost on the Lakers’ defensive schemes.

A longer training camp and more comfort with the team could help ameliorate that problem, but it remains to be seen how much of Hill’s potential can be tapped.

5. Hill needs to get his court case resolved: He has a pending court case in Houston in which he faces felony charges for allegedly choking his girlfriend in February. If convicted, he could spend up to 10 years in prison.

ALSO:

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Five things Steve Blake needs for a successful season

Five things Jodie Meeks needs for a successful season

Five things Devin Ebanks needs for a successful season

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com. Follow the Lakers blog on Twitter.


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