With a 12 ppg, 8 rpg and at almost 27 mpg, there's no doubt that Jordan Hill had his finest season as a pro. The former Arizona Wildcat had been a bit player on the Lakers for two and a half seasons before this year, with the front office plucking him out of Houston and giving the former lottery pick the opportunity to escape from being a complete draft bust.
Hill was a rare legitimate NBA talent on a Lakers roster generally bereft of such players. With a burgeoning but still imperfect offensive game, some of the best rebounding chops in the league and a decent defensive prowess, the big man was given time to shine in a slow down Byron Scott post-based offense. However, at a $9 million team option price tag next season, is bringing in a useful but limited player really what the Lakers need? We discuss below.
What do you think are the mitigating factors in the Lakers bringing him back next season?
Harrison Faigen: Price and decline. The Lakers hold a team option worth $9 million on Hill for next year, and while his expiring contract would help conserve cap space for the oft-discussed summer of 2016, Hill's decline from valuable energy big off the bench to disappointing starter this year should at the very least give the team pause. According to NBA.com, Hill went from attempting 19.8% of his shots from mid-range during the 2013-14 season (converting 42.7% of them) to an astonishing 47.4% of his shots coming from that distance in 2014-15 (and hitting 38% of them).
Not only did this decline in shot selection hurt Hill's efficiency (one of his best aspects as a player prior to this season), it took him away from the basket, which negated his offensive rebounding. Hill rebounded 13.9% of Lakers misses in 13-14, which dropped to 9.7% in 14-15. The Lakers front office needs to take a long, hard look at alternative options before deciding if that is worth $9 million.
Jameson Miller: Aside from the usual suspects like the draft and free agency, I'd say the biggest factor in whether or not Hill remains a Laker next year is whether the team feels there will be any real demand around the league for his services in February. Ever since Jordan signed his current deal last summer, it felt like the front office had one eye on the trade deadline. The Lakers essentially guaranteed themselves the option of having a tasty $9 million expiring contract for two straight deadlines when they inked Hill, and the fact that he had a reputation as a high-energy offensive rebounding machine made it seem like a foregone conclusion that some playoff contender—in desperate need of a rotation big to sop up meaningful minutes and galvanize their second unit—would come calling in February.
Either the Lakers overvalued Hill and asked too much in return...or teams looked at the numbers and noticed that his most viable skill has declined markedly over the last few seasons and the calls just never came.
Trevor Lane: First and foremost, the Lakers need to decide whether or not they need Hill next year. With younger and cheaper options like Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black, Robert Sacre, and potentially Ed Davis already in the fold the team is fairly well stocked with bigs. Throw in the possibility that the team drafts or signs another post player in free agency and there may not be enough minutes (or roster spots) to go around. Even if the Lakers decide they do need Hill's services next year it isn't a foregone conclusion that they want to pay him $9 million.
Ben Rosales: That he's more or less hit his proverbial ceiling. For the past few years, there was a fairly reasonable belief that Hill would continue to develop his game beyond that of an (admittedly very good) energy big man, and to a certain extent, he has done so as of late with the extended range on his jumper. This development, however, combined with extended minutes, led to the deterioration of the very things that made him appealing in the first place, namely his prodigious offensive rebounding and effort on the defensive end. At this juncture, it's more or less apparent that Hill's role should be that of a 20-25 minute bench player on a good team and that kind of player isn't really valuable for the Lakers at this stage of their rebuilding process. Additionally, Hill's option is rather expensive and while it wouldn't prevent the Lakers from offering close-to-max money this summer, it would severely limit their overall flexibility. Not to mention that that money very well could go towards a new center in free agency, although drafting a center could make this all a giant moot point.
The Great Mambino: The biggest have to be the price tag and opportunity. The former is self-explanatory--in a season before the big cap jump, is Hill really worth that money? For his limitations on offense and lack of shot blocking, perhaps. More importantly, Hill's contract robs the Lakers of opportunities, the first being playing time for Julius Randle, as well as extra cap space to throw at more talented free agents.
Do you feel that the Lakers should punch in Jordan Hill's option for next year?
Harrison Faigen: Given all the reasons listed above, probably not. But it depends on how heavily they are valuing flexibility for the next off-season or how desperately they want to bring Ed Davis back. There are arguments to be made for either side.
Jameson Miller: Sadly, no. I like Jordan. We like Jordan. We liked his hair, his mellow attitude, his laid back radio interviews, and his game-changing dynamism on the offensive glass while the Lakers were still considered a fringe contender. Maybe it's just that Lakers fans can appreciate a chill head when they see one, but Hill has always been liked in LA. However, with six full seasons under his belt, it's not as if there is still some gem within Jordan's game yet to be unearthed. This isn't to say he's done being a productive player, as plenty of his issues can be corrected. Improved conditioning, more experience with a higher minute tally and better shot selection could lead to a bump in his offensive rebounding rate (his marquee skill), but $9 million seems a bit steep, especially with what seems like a lukewarm trade environment and the decline of the expiring contract as a valuable bargaining chip.
Trevor Lane: No, they shouldn't, simply because of the opportunity cost. Most likely picking up Hill's $9 million option means not having enough cap space to offer a max contract to free agents this summer. While Hill is solid, having him as a player/trade chip isn't worth taking the Lakers out of contention for the likes of Greg Monroe, Brook Lopez, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, etc.
It also has to be mentioned that even though the Lakers have had success in the past with dealing $9 million expiring contracts (thanks Kwame!), the times they are a changin' and there isn't as much demand for them anymore. Decline it, Mitch.
Ben Rosales: No. The marginal gain from doing so, namely preserving him as a possible trade chip, isn't worth the cap space hit his option would accrue. Even if the Lakers do strike out on every center option in free agency and fail to get a five in the draft, the better close-to-home option is Ed Davis. Needless to say, if the Lakers end up in such dire straits that retaining Hill is a serious concern, they have worse things to worry about.
The Great Mambino: No. At that price tag, I would rather spend slightly less for Ed Davis, who isn't as well rounded offensively, but can do many of the same things on defense and is younger than Hill. Jordan Hill is a nice player, but the Lakers cannot be spending $9M on a player that isn't a core piece moving forward.
If he were to hit the open market, what type of contract could he fetch?
Harrison Faigen: $6-7 million or less? Hill would be on another team if there had been much interest in him at his current salary at the trade deadline, so it is hard to see him making the same money he would be owed if the Lakers retain him. Hill's skill set still has value when utilized correctly as a third big off of the bench in limited minutes, so with a rising cap it's easy to see a team with need talking themselves into that amount.
Jameson Miller: Maybe $6.5 million annually over 3 years? Don't confuse decline in a few areas with out and out crappiness—Jordan can still play. He's 27 years old, just finished up a season in which he played 70 games or more for the second consecutive year while averaging nearly 8 rebounds and a career-high 12 ppg. His raw numbers are fine, he just needs to take better shots and get back in touch with the glass-eating demon that earned him his current contract.
Trevor Lane: In an effort to expand his game this past season Hill started stepping out farther and farther on his jumpers, which actually made some sense when he was playing alongside a non-shooter like Ed Davis or Tarik Black. However, doing so negatively impacted his offensive rebounding and field goal percentage, which used to be his bread and butter. In other words, Jordan Hill forgot how to be Jordan Hill. While "stretch" bigs are all the rage right now Hill actually made himself less valuable with his increased range, although he could still discover a happy medium between attacking the glass and bombing jumpers.
As a reliable piece who can play well off the bench but doesn't have the stamina to be a starter (holy crap Mike D'Antoni was right), Hill would likely command a 3-year, $20 million deal this summer.
Ben Rosales: Something like $21 million or so over three years? Hill has a certain amount of value if he can return to the days in which he was a top five offensive rebounder in the league and guys who can do that and nail a 15 footer every now and then don't grow on trees. He'd have to perk up his energy and defense, the latter of which was especially bad as the season progressed, if he wants to end up on a contender but he should have a market, especially among the more analytically-inclined teams.
The Great Mambino: On the free market, three years and between $20 and $25 million sounds about right. Don't get me wrong--I think Hill could be worth $9M in the right situation. It's just not the right time for the Lakers.