Lakers News: Jordan Hill Will Be Offensive X-Factor If Jump Shot Improves
According to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin, the typically robust post player has been working on his perimeter game and jump shot to become more of a stretch 4.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni has to be feeling the heat after a difficult start to his tenure. Taking over 10 games into last year, he guided the Lakers to a 40-32 record and 45-37 overall before being swept in the opening round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs.
Injury-plagued seasons for the team's returning stars in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash—the ideal catalyst for D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" offense—hampered the talented squad from reaching its full potential.
The 26-year-old Hill is one valuable player who could help the cause, and he himself also missed 53 games last season due to injury, per McMenamin.
With Howard gone, help is definitely necessary on the boards. Although LA endured a difficult year, one thing the Lakers did well was rebound as they averaged 44.8 boards per contest—fourth in the NBA.
Which role player must step up most for the Lakers in 2013-14?
Gasol attempted to be more of a perimeter presence in his first action under D'Antoni, but he's clearly at his best when operating in the paint, where he has an array of crafty moves and also thrives as a lethal passer.
Newly acquired center Chris Kaman has a great touch for a seven-footer, but is obviously better suited on the lower block. That leaves Hill and second-round pick Ryan Kelly to be the flexible big men to spread the floor and allow D'Antoni's schemes to thrive.
Hill's development is key in allowing Gasol and Kaman to operate comfortably in their elements. It will also be critical to absorb some minutes while Bryant attempts a comeback after undergoing surgery on his Achilles, which he tore late last season.
The signs are encouraging with regard to Hill's transformation as a player, as he's boldly proclaiming his shot has improved immensely and that he's even expanded his range to the three-point line:
I just want to be a stretch 4. Just try to spread the floor a little bit, just show a little range. I’ve been working on it the whole summer, trying to focus on that, on my 3-ball. It got a lot better. I’m just ready to put it all together and showcase it.
Working out in Atlanta with three-point marksman teammate Jodie Meeks has helped push Hill along during his adjustment.
The athleticism for Hill to thrive as more of a threat away from the rim is definitely there, and it's intriguing that D'Antoni has had him focus on developing that part of his game.
It leads to an intriguing and bright future for Hill if he can remain healthy, which has been easier said than done for many Lakers recently.
As the No. 8 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, Hill has not quite lived up to the hype in his young career. Skepticism is understandable over this offseason project. Hill's forte never has been shooting from the outside, and shooting in the gym against air is a lot different than in the heat of NBA competition.
Under D'Antoni, though, Hill is diversifying his skill set and could become the X-factor the Lakers need in this time of uncertainty and vulnerability to compete in the tough Western Conference.
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