Finally, an easy decision for the Los Angeles Lakers to make.
General manager Mitch Kupchak and Co. still have power in determining which direction this season goes, and they have even more say in how they further their rebuilding efforts. And trading rebounding aficionado Jordan Hill would be an exhibition of the power and control that has eluded them this season.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers did indeed engage the Brooklyn Nets in trade talks:
Although the Lakers engaged in preliminary talks about a trade that would send Jordan Hill to the Brooklyn Nets, the deal likely will not happen, according to a league source familiar with the situation.
The main reason: Brooklyn would absorb a $17 million luxury tax penalty for acquiring Hill’s remaining $3.5 million on his expiring contract. Brooklyn has some flexibility considering its $5.25 million disabled player exception could be used to absorb Hill’s contract. But that doesn’t erase the luxury tax implications. The Nets would then have shelled out around $190 million in combined payroll and luxury tax.
Most trade discussions are fated to break down when doing business with the Nets. Their financial outlook, again, isn't pretty.
But unlike the Nets, there will be teams out there willing and able to acquire Hill, and the Lakers, with their season beyond saving, have reached a point where trading him is one of the few things that actually makes sense.
It's Mike D'Antoni's World
Lakers fans should love Mike D'Antoni. I'm being serious.
The Lakers aren't as consistently entertaining or diligent without him.
Though it isn't reflected in the standings, this roster is built for D'Antoni. His floor space-heavy, point guard-friendly system has allowed no-names to flourish and given the Lakers an opportunity to see who can and cannot be part of their future.
Among those who cannot help the Lakers long-term is Hill. Power forwards must space the floor in D'Antoni's system, something Hill just cannot do.
"He talked about what I need to work on for this coming summer," Hill told ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin of D'Antoni in August. "My jump shot—he definitely wanted me to work on my outside jumper."
To that point, Hill had attempted a whopping nine three-pointers through the first four seasons of his career, and missed all of them. He had also never averaged more than one shot attempt outside nine feet, according to Hoopdata.com.
This season hasn't been much different. Hill has hoisted up one three-pointer and missed, making him 0-of-10 from downtown for his career.
To Hill's credit, the frequency with which he attempts jumpers has increased. His efficiency, however, has not. While he's attempting 1.1 shots outside nine feet, per NBA.com (subscription required), he's connecting on just 32.1 percent of them.
D'Antoni cannot work with that. Not when he has a defense-stretching 4 in Kelly eager to play serious minutes, hence the reason Hill continues to average under 20 minutes per game for a Lakers team desperately in need of healthy bodies.
Just because Hill isn't a fit for the Lakers, doesn't mean he isn't a fit somewhere else.
Despite limited playing time, Hill still manages to have an impact on the glass. He's bringing down seven rebounds in 19.5 minutes of action. Seven. That's 12.9 per 36 minutes and ranks first among all players who are averaging under 20 minutes per game.
In fact, no one else is really close. Samuel Dalembert is the only other player (minimum 25 games) to be averaging over six in under 20 minutes a night.
Hill also checks in at second in offensive rebounding percentage (14.2) among players who have appeared in at least 25 games and are seeing 19-plus minutes of time, behind only Andre Drummond (17.2). That's it.
Above all else, Hill is a hustle guy—a fighter—and teams can always use fighters.
Will he net the Lakers a first-round pick? Probably not. His offensive game remains limited outside alley-oops and putbacks, he's a work in progress within pick-and-rolls and his defense could be (much) better.
But he's also earning just $3.5 million this season and comes off the books this summer. There are no risks for any interested teams, just as there is no downside to dealing Hill for the Lakers.
Los Angeles' season is already lost. The playoffs aren't an option coming out of the All-Star break, with the Lakers 13 games back of the Western Conference's No. 8 seed, so it's time to start stockpiling draft picks and decreasing luxury-tax bills.
Even if trading Hill only brings the Lakers a second-round selection while lightening their $79 million-plus salary load, it's worth it. More than worth it. Send him to a team—a contender, perhaps—where he fits in—where he plays for more than an inadvertent tank job. That moving him makes the Lakers worse is merely a bonus, and it is a bonus.
Rebuilding and retooling through the draft isn't Los Angeles' thing, and that's not going to change. But we, along with the Lakers, would be fools not to see the value of making a team tied for last place in the Western Conference even worse.
This year's draft class is deep, filled with what is believed to be vast arrays of franchise-changing talent. Rivaling Eastern Conference bottom-feeders and securing a top-five pick becomes more likely by trading Hill, who, by the way, leads the Lakers in win shares (three) despite playing under 20 minutes a night.
Like I said, he's a fighter.
"He's a bruiser down there," Lakers point guard Steve Blake said of Hill, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan. "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."
Permitting Hill to bang, bruise and battle for another team makes more sense for the Lakers, and Hill himself, than keeping him in Los Angeles ever could.
Salary information via ShamSports.
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