Five ways Jordan Hill’s return helps the Lakers
Below are five ways Jordan Hill’s return to the Lakers significantly helps the team’s bench.
1. The job of the Lakers’ front office becomes easier. By securing Hill with a two-year deal for around $7 million, the Lakers’ quest to upgrade their bench becomes a lot easier. The Lakers could offer such a contract partly because they own Hill’s “Bird Rights.” But they had hoped to acquire every other reserve at the veteran’s minimum. Such constraints would’ve made it nearly impossible to find another forward with a skill set similar to Hill’s.
The Lakers are probably far from finished with changing their bench, considering they’re not expected to re-sign Matt Barnes and Troy Murphy. But with Antawn Jamison and Hill locked up, the Lakers already made two crucial signings without having to bite deeply into their finances.
2. Energy. The Lakers don’t need to worry about calling Hill’s number. He displayed the mind-set the Lakers want bench players to have. He made himself valuable by hustling for loose balls, owning the glass (4.8 rebounds per game) and providing a physical presence.
Such a mind-set should rub off on his teammates. It will increase the likelihood that the Lakers can make defensive stops and convert them into transition baskets. That will make it more likely that the starters won’t have to come in to regain a blown lead or overcome a double-digit deficit.
3. Frontcourt depth. The Lakers’ haven’t fully used their size advantage in recent seasons, partly because they lacked depth. Hill’s presence partly mitigates that. It gives the Lakers some relief should Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol suffer an injury or need to rest. With Hill able to play at center and power forward, Coach Mike Brown also has more flexibility in figuring out combinations.
4. Long-term investment. Hill’s skill set still remains somewhat raw. He hasn’t fully grasped Brown’s offense. His defense reflected effort more than knowledge of the schemes. But consider: Hill is 25 and spent his first month with the Lakers rehabbing an MCL sprain in his right knee.
Hill can mitigate his weaknesses in his post moves and jumper in numerous ways. Steve Nash’s presence will probably make it easier for Hill to receive open looks (as it will for everyone). More practice time going against the Lakers’ bigs should further develop Hill’s game. More knowledge of Brown’s system will help him to avoid relying solely on energy and hustle.
5. Hill’s presence lessens the Lakers’ pain. Many, including yours truly, didn’t like the Lakers’ trading Derek Fisher and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets, for a variety of reasons. The move amounted to a salary dump, relative pennies considering Fisher was slated to make only $3.4 million next season. The Lakers lost a coveted chance to add a first-round pick. Even if Fisher had played a reduced role, his leadership could’ve played a large part in keeping the locker room together and keeping Bynum in line.
Absolutely no one anticipated that Hill would make a contribution on the Lakers. That is, until Brown randomly inserted him into the lineup April 22 against Oklahoma City, where he posted 14 points and 15 rebounds. So it’s a stretch to say the Lakers’ front office was able to predict all of this. Still, the move gave them a legitimate backup frontcourt player, something the Lakers have lacked in recent seasons. It may not have been more valuable than a first-round pick or Fisher’s locker-room presence, but it’s still a valuable piece.
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