The Los Angeles Lakers might as well start entertaining trade offers for Jordan Hill with the trade deadline just about a month away.
There is a case to be made that he is the only valuable asset on the team because of his expiring contract and affordable cap figure of $3.5 million according to Sham Sports.
Productive big men are the most attractive commodity in basketball, and Hill certainly fits the bill. The former New York Knickerbocker’s play prompted Steve Blake to share his thoughts with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
“He's a bruiser down there," Lakers point guard Steve Blake said. "He goes out there with reckless abandonment and throws his body around and he's strong. That's just the way he plays and I think he'll continue to do that."
He is averaging career highs in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage all the while playing both the center and power forward positions.
Hill has accomplished this despite playing a little under 20 minutes per game. Mike D’Antoni has essentially inserted him in and out of the lineup in an attempt to mix and match his five-man units.
The Lakers’ coaching staff favors spreading the court with shooters, and in turn, Hill is at times the odd man out. His game logs provide ample evidence that the big man simply cannot expect to receive any type of consistent minutes with the Purple and Gold.
Hill is an attractive piece and consequently, Los Angeles must evaluate its options.
Keeping Jordan Hill
The Los Angeles Lakers plan on being major players in free agency this offseason with approximately $26 million in cap room. They can only obtain such a figure by renouncing all of their players whose deals have expired.
The Lake Show will have needs to fill even after potentially signing a big name. Thus, L.A. should certainly consider bringing back Hill provided they can get him at market value.
Previously, in trying to determine his future salary, I compared his contributions to those of other players and looked at their salaries. The conclusion was:
Given that Hill will still be a 26-year-old forward by the time the 2014 offseason kicks in, one can realistically assume he will be looking for a contract that pays him approximately $26 million over a four-year span.
Hill will likely have other suitors willing to offer a bit more for his services and in addition, one has to think other situations might be a little more attractive. Given the way Mike D’Antoni has yanked around Hill, it’s quite possible he will not be inclined to return with D’Antoni still in place.
To be fair, Los Angeles probably will not be interested in bringing back Hill if D’Antoni is still their headman. The franchise will not want to provide a not-so-modest sum of money to a player spending more time on the bench than on the court.
Things get a bit more interesting when we take into account the fact that D’Antoni might not be back with the team. His presence will likely serve as an impediment when recruiting players on the open market and also, the perception that he is inflexible in his ideologies perhaps increases the probability he will not be retained.
If such is the case, Hill may very well want to rejoin the Lakers in the offseason. However, the Lakers have not given any early indication that they are contemplating a coaching change.
Therefore, instead of losing Hill for nothing in the summer, Mitch Kupchak might want to start working the phone lines.
Jordan Hill can certainly help a contender in need of some interior play this season. Indeed, teams vying for a title will need some quality size in the starting unit and on the bench to reach the mountaintop.
The favorites for the Larry O’Brien Trophy are the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference and the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference according to ESPN.com’s NBA Winter Forecast.
Three of those four units have pairs of big men ferociously anchoring the paint (the Heat are the outlier here). Hence, the path to the crown will in all likelihood require solid interior play to battle against them.
An argument could be made that Miami might want to take a shot at acquiring Hill, but they recently jettisoned Joel Anthony in an effort to trim their luxury-tax bill.
Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald offers some specifics: “Trading away Anthony’s contract of $3.8 million for the next two seasons could potentially save the Heat $16 million overall when factoring in the luxury tax.”
The defending champs might be interested if Hill’s salary was lower, but his contract might be just a tad too steep.
Instead, there are teams in the West that could make a run with the addition of Hill.
The Golden State Warriors have had issues with their second-unit big people because of injuries. Jermaine O’Neal reportedly started practicing again after undergoing wrist surgery, but it remains unclear when he will be available to take the floor with his teammates.
Festus Ezeli has missed the entire season so far and should return around the final month of the season because of his knee injury. The Warriors need some front-line help, and Jordan Hill can certainly provide it.
The Lakers can swap Hill for O’Neal, Kent Bazemore and a draft pick. Both players have expiring contracts, thus the Lakers will not be taking on any long-term deals.
The move here is simply to get an asset for Hill, and this exchange accomplishes that. It’s possible the Lakers might want more in exchange for Hill, and if such is the case, they can potentially reach out to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Terry Stotts’ team is loaded with talent, but his reserve interior players are very inexperienced. Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard are the second-unit big men, and one has to believe they might not be ready to offer meaningful contributions in the playoffs.
Hence, Portland can send over Thomas Robinson to the Lakers in a swap for Hill. Robinson is a young player signed until 2016-17 who helps with the construction of the team going forward.
He makes an average of roughly $4 million and has a team option in his contract that allows the Lakers to let him walk at the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign per Sham Sports.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers acquire a veteran big man that can play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge when Robin Lopez rests or faces foul trouble.
The Purple and Gold must capitalize off of Hill’s talents, otherwise they face the risk of watching him leave for nothing this summer.