As the curtains close on what has proven to be a memorable season for Jordan Hill, the 6-foot-10 center now has to ponder and answer some very immediate questions regarding his future. After enjoying a career year across the board, the University of Arizona alumnus is certainly due a payday, and with the Lakers looking to retain cap flexibility for means of rebuilding in the 15/16 free agency market, Jordan’s name could be the first of many to face the axe.
Since his arrival in Los Angeles at the trade deadline two years ago, Hill has experienced somewhat of a rollercoaster two years in the Purple and Gold. Injury woes in his first full season forced him into appearing in only 29 games, averaging 15.8mpg and 6.7ppg, as well as 5.7rpg in this period. As well as fighting ongoing battles with fitness, Hill failed to establish himself within Mike D’Antoni’s system as Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol were the go-to options in the team’s frontcourt. After getting healthy as soon as the playoffs kicked off, Jordan’s season got rolling as soon as it came to a close with his presence only contributing 10 points across three of the four defeats against the Spurs in the first round.
The Dwight-less Lakers looked sparse going into the new season, and Hill must have seen it as his opportunity to pounce as right out of the gates, his energy in the paint was too enticing for D’Antoni to ignore. In his first eight games, Hill contributed an impressive 6.6rpg to the team in just 16.1mpg with his hyper-efficiency demonstrating his hard work when fit in the off-season.
In his next eight games, Hill’s rapid improvement was becoming increasingly evident with his efforts on the boards totalling him to 10.4rpg in a boosted 28mpg. The month of November saw Hill record a then-Career high at home against the Detroit Pistons where he notched 24 points as well as 17 boards.
Despite a mid-season lull hitting Hill in the first two months of the year, Jordan has firmly found his feet in the closing weeks of the season in which he’s averaged a whopping stat line including 15.9ppg, 9.9rpg and 1.4bpg in a prosperous 27.1mpg.
Despite never fully embodying the consistency desired by Coach D’Antoni, Hill himself believes in his own qualities.
He’s a man who knows his strengths, his weaknesses and you’d be deluded to think that he doesn’t know that he’s worth more than he’s earning. The largest dime that Hill has always possessed has been his potential and although his consistency and defence are not on par with some of the great NBA Centers of the day, a-la Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah, his sporadic outbursts of efficiency have demonstrated that he does hold the key to unlocking his complete game.
You also get the sense that Hill has matured a great deal throughout his tenure with the Lakers. Despite not always seeing eye to eye with his coach, Jordan was able to maintain a largely professional attitude towards both his playing time and role within the team. His willingness to engage with fans both on social media and in public have made him a quiet favourite amongst plenty of Angelenos and whatever happens this off-season, his presence will be missed both in spirit and on court.
That being said, Hill is not in a fit state to carry the burden of the front court on his back for the distant future. In his exit interview, he discussed how his lack of fitness has restricted his ability to contribute consistently and although he has enjoyed an extended period of fairly good health, the money he may demand in the summer may not warrant that of his contributions, especially with players such as Kevin Love, LeMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol available 12 months from now.
Despite his excellence this season coming in only flashes, Hill has certainly done a fine job at marketing himself to the rest of the league. His trademark energy output and rebounding skills, especially on the offensive end, have made him a valuable target for a number of teams needing to bolster their frontcourts.
His PER of 19.3 for the year matches his career high (the other coming in his first 7 games in LA, hardly a comparable figure) and comparing this number to his last 72-game season (Houston, 2010-2011) where he managed 13.0, we can see how the enhanced stats similarly demonstrate his improvements.
The issue with Mike D’Antoni is also one that is being somewhat overplayed by the media, at least in my opinion. Although his frustrations with the coach have been transparent in the last few months especially, there is no doubt that the big man will peruse a hefty contract first and foremost. Work on his core strength, fitness and stamina this summer could allow his hustle to be transformed from short bursts from the bench to a regular trait in his offensive repertoire.
Despite talk of a return, Jordan Hill’s tone within his exit interview marks the approach of a man who will indeed test his value in the free agency market. I’m sure that the Lakers will be willing to open the door back to him, but only at a price that suits both parties. That, however, is a deal that’s unlikely to be struck.
Whatever dotted line Hill signs in the summer, he’ll always remember his Lakers tenure as a time for reconciliation, development and in his words, enjoyment.
“I had a great time here, whatever happens.”
I hope that I speak for all Lakers fans in wishing him the best for the future, whatever colours he may be donning.
Thanks Jordan. Good year!