Why Jordan Hill Must Start over Chris Kaman Alongside Pau Gasol for Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers made a smart move by signing center Chris Kaman after Dwight Howard left town, but only if this means Kaman will be the first big man off the bench behind Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.
To be fair, Kaman is bigger than Hill, more experienced and gives the Lakers the type of height advantage in the paint they enjoyed during the Andrew Bynum era. But Bynum played for coaches who actually believed in the merits of post play, while Kaman plays for Mike D'Antoni.
And what makes anyone think the Lakers offense will flow any better with Kaman in the middle than it did with Howard?
In fact, the slower, less athletic Kaman would probably make last season's dysfunctional offensive unit look like a well-oiled machine by comparison.
The real kicker is Hill will not make the Lakers offense much better than it would be with Kaman, but he does bring other qualities to the table that could be very valuable on the defensive end of the court.
The ideal power forward in D'Antoni's offense would be comfortable shooting the ball from the perimeter, attacking the rim off the dribble and weak defensively.
None of those traits describe Hill.
Any jump shot from Hill will likely be taken no further than six feet from the basket. He seems to enjoy playing with his back to the basket, so attacking the rim off the dribble is probably out of the question.
And finally, Hill is a pretty good defender and rebounder who has a little room left to grow.
Regardless of whether Hill starts or not for the Lakers, he should find those minutes this season.
Kaman's signing was preceded by Nick Young's and followed by Wesley Johnson, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry, as the Lakers raced to sign any castoff willing to accept a one-year deal.
It shouldn't be too hard for Hill to crack the rotation considering his main competition for playing time in the paint appears to be Kaman and Robert Sacre.
But if the Lakers truly want to compete, the starters will be a better unit with Hill's athleticism and energy opposed to Kaman's experience.
Kaman's 11.8 points per game and eight rebounds are better than Hill's own career averages of 5.6 points and 4.5 rebounds, but Hill's numbers came in 14.7 minutes of playing time, while Kaman has averaged 28.7 minutes per game, mostly as a starter.
Doesn't it stand to reason if Hill's minutes were increased then his averages would too?
That type of speculation may not be enough to sway D'Antoni or Lakers fans into favoring Hill over Kaman, but the potential for a momentum-changing or spectacular play should.
Do you remember when Shannon Brown's activity and amazing dunks used to energize the Staples Center Crowd? Hill possesses the same type of athleticism and energy to do as he did.
Kaman is a dependable, serviceable player, but what you see is what you get. It's hard to imagine Kaman inciting Lakers fanatics with his deliberate style, but Hill's energy and attitude might be just what the Lakers need, especially in the wake of Metta World Peace's departure.
When the Lakers amnestied the player formerly known as Ron Artest, they also gave away their best defensive player and more importantly their enforcer.
Steve Nash may be tough, but he and Pau Gasol do not exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents, and Hill doesn't either. But if he learns to temper his aggression and stay out of foul trouble he could.
The Lakers need a grimy, gritty player who is not afraid to be physical and mix it up in the paint while allowing Gasol plenty of room to operate.
Who Should Start for the Lakers Alongside Pau Gasol?
A Kaman and Gasol pairing would create many of the same spacing issues that were prominent during Howard's short tenure, and while Kaman is a smart post player, he's not particularly tough in the paint.
Regardless of who D'Antoni starts, his decision will not be based on three-point shooting since Hill and Kaman are a combined 0-26 for their careers in that department. But if defense and activity in the paint is a consideration, then coach No-D should take a long look at Hill.
Right now D'Antoni needs starters who can create excitement, help the team win a few games and keep the fans interested. Which player, Kaman or Hill, fits that bill?
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