Name: Jordan Hill
Season: 6th season (4th with Lakers)
Role: Rebounding aficionado, Dread Head Wonder.
The Good: Jordan Hill loves to do the dirty work. That's hard to come across in Hollywood, where the Lakers have an assortment of flashy scorers, popular brand names and proud veterans. All Hill needs to be happy is a shot to rebound and floor to run. His 21 games of double-digit rebounds are impressive considering his competition. Hill posted 17 rebounds against Andre Drummond, 14 in a 13-point victory over the Spurs, and 15 against DeMarcus Cousins. His numbers improved to 12.8 points and 8.6 boards after the All-Star break, helping him parlay his '13-14 season into a new contract. While $9 million is rather steep, Hill has been a reliable contributor when given minutes. As such, he'll likely anchor the Lakers' frontcourt.
Lakers season preview
Hill's journey has come full circle
Jordan Hill has never been able to find a comfortable role since he joined the NBA as a lottery selection in 2009. He's finally being awarded after a long journey.
Lakers season preview
The Bad: The Lakers are better this season, so averaging double-digits could be out of the question for Hill, who hasn't developed a reliable offensive arsenal. He can make the occasional jumper, and his touch around the basket has certainly improved, but he's best as an energetic rebounder/defender who relies on others to create his offense. As a part-time starter, that's been fine, but Hill is graduating to a full-time starter, and paying $9 million solely for energy is ... not ideal. Moreover, Hill is the Lakers' only reliable true center, and if his 4.1 fouls Per-36 minutes are any indication, his energy could occasionally prove to be a double-edged sword.
The Could Be: Hill could continue maximizing his minutes, especially considering he and Kobe Bryant are the only Lakers with defined roles. While others contemplate if/when they'll start, Hill enters his first season locked into the starting lineup, hoping to improve upon his career-highs in games (72), starts (32), minutes (20.8) and so on. Under Byron Scott, Hill could man the paint the same way Tyson Chandler did with the Hornets, albeit with no Chris Paul within reach. He's not the shot blocker or defender Chandler is, but Hill never lacks for effort, and as the only Laker with a relative defensive makeup, he'll have the chance to try.
The Hope Not: Injury concern is a common theme for most Lakers, and Hill is no different. Moreover, Hill's value is tied to how he channels his energy going forward. His aforementioned 4.1 fouls Per-36 indicate a tendency to overcompensate with his desire to make plays, and as the Lakers' best (only, honestly) true option at center, Hill must balance between frantic energy and learning when to let some plays go. If not, the Lakers could again see more Robert Sacre, who, all things considered, proved last season he's a worst-case scenario.
The Likely: Hill has a good motor and 2014-15 won't be any different. As he finds himself in the starting five, he'll have the good fortune of not being something he isn't. That isn't to say he doesn't need improvement, of course. Hill's offense comes and goes, but seeing as he gets buckets via putbacks and dump-offs, the former Arizona star can focus on providing the rebounding, energy, and tenacity that earned him his pay day. Kobe and company will score the points. Hill will be happy to pick up the pieces.
What It Means: No one will ever, ever, ever confuse Hill with Dwight Howard, but it's refreshing for the team to have a decent option at center, especially as the 27-year old Hill enters his prime. His new deal is only two years, granting him a first year to validate the Lakers' trust, and a second year to prove his long-term value if the Lakers pick up the $9 million team option on him. You know what you're getting from Hill by now, and the Lakers are clearly pleased with his development over the years. The next step is putting it together for 82 games with extended minutes. If Hill continues producing, the Lakers' interior could be set for years to come.