1 Surprising Name Who Will Make a Big Impact for the L.A. Lakers in 2012-13

Sim RissoFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Jordan Hill #27 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for a dunk in the first half against the Denver Nuggets in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have a stacked roster. They have All-Stars in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.

Metta World Peace, when focused, can be one of the best wing defenders in the NBA. And the addition of Antawn Jamison as a sixth man should really bolster L.A.'s ability to score off the bench.

But one surprising player who will likely make a big impact for Los Angeles is backup power forward/center Jordan Hill.

When the Lakers completed a trade for Dwight Howard a few weeks back, they were getting the best center in the NBA. Howard is an absolute force on defense, having won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2008-09 through 2010-11.

Howard's also an excellent rebounder. He's led the NBA in rebounds per game in four of the past five years and has hauled in 13.9 rebounds per game during that span.

And although he's not known for a polished game on offense, especially a back-to-the-basket post game, Howard's certainly no slouch on that end of the court.

He has averaged 18.3 points per game over his career, and the past five seasons he's averaging 20.6 points per game. And it's not just volume-scoring with Howard; he's been efficient too, shooting 59 percent from the field since the 2007-08 season.

When he's on the court, Dwight Howard is simply the best center the NBA has to offer. However, we don't know how much Howard will be on the court.

Howard underwent back surgery in April and is still recuperating. He said at his introductory press conference with the Lakers that there's no timetable for his return to the court. He also made no assurances that he'd be ready to go for the season opener on Oct. 3.

With a full and speedy recovery, Howard shouldn't miss too much of the 2012-13 season. But there are no guarantees with back injuries. Those type of injuries tend to linger and can be problematic for months, if not years.

If Howard ends up missing a significant portion of the season, Jordan Hill will be the one to fill the void. That's why Hill will end up having an impact on the Lakers' season.

Luckily for Los Angeles, Hill should be up to the task. Of course, Hill can't be expected to replace Howard's production, but he's a more than serviceable backup.

He's a solid rebounder, averaging 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes during his four-year career. He's also good at defending the basket, indicated by his 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes including 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes with the Lakers last season.

Compared to Howard, where Hill really leaves a lot to be desired is on the offensive end of the court. He isn't great at scoring in transition and, although he's got a few post moves, he hasn't shown the confidence in them to really impact a game.

Because of his inability to score in transition or score with his back to the basket, he's only averaged 13.2 points per 36 minutes. On top of that, he's not nearly as efficient as a player of his size should be, as he's posted a field-goal percentage of .493 for his career.

But with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Antawn Jamison on the team, Hill won't need to provide much on offense. He'll just be asked to provide some interior defense and clean up the glass, which are Hill's strengths.

At this point, there's no telling how much time Dwight Howard will miss with the injury. But based on his reluctance to provide an estimation of when he'll return to the court, it's highly unlikely he's ready to go on opening night.

Then, when Howard finally is ready to return to the court, the Lakers will probably want to ease him into action as he gets back to full strength.

Ideally, Howard only takes a month of the season to recover. But if he faces some setbacks, it could take two or three months for him to be ready to go. That's not an optimum scenario for L.A., but as long as Howard is ready for the stretch run and the playoffs, the Lakers should be fine.

But until Howard's fully prepared to return, Jordan Hill will be the one playing center for the Los Angeles Lakers. That should leave plenty of minutes for the backup big man. It will also allow for Hill to have a surprisingly big impact for L.A.

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