Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Jordan Hill During 2014 Offseason
Bruising big man Jordan Hill has five NBA seasons under his belt, but the 26-year-old unrestricted free agent is still something of an unknown commodity. He has yet to find the right combination of fit and opportunity that allows his ceiling to be properly set.
The former lottery pick saw more than 20 minutes a night for the first time in his career last season (20.8). He set personal bests in points (9.7), rebounds (7.4) and field-goal percentage (54.9), yet he never secured a stable spot in perimeter-oriented coach Mike D'Antoni's rotation.
Hill logged more than 30 minutes in 11 different games, but on other nights, he never saw the floor. By season's end, he said he would not return to the Los Angeles Lakers if he would be stuck in a similar role.
"Of course not," Hill said, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. "Who would?"
Hill shouldn't have to worry about answering that question. D'Antoni resigned from his post, so the high-motor big man could feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of sticking around.
Yet that's just one of several possibilities facing Hill in free agency. He's shown enough already for teams to take interest, especially those who believe his game could do a lot of growing in the right setting.
The Lakers could push hard to keep him, but he'll have plenty of options to choose from.
The Long Shot: Atlanta Hawks
Hill owes it to himself to consider the Atlanta Hawks.
Any ticket to the Eastern Conference is worth exploring, but the Hawks have more than an easy playoff path to sell.
Coach Mike Budenholzer employs a selfless offensive system, where box scores can erupt from any number of different sources. The Hawks have three primary threats in Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Paul Millsap, all of whom are willing and able to keep others involved.
However, the opportunity for Hill in Atlanta does not look good.
Horford and Millsap have strangleholds on the starting gigs. Rookie Adreian Payne's biggest selling point is his ability to contribute right away. Pero Antic is "likely" to return, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as could restricted free agent Mike Scott and sophomore Mike Muscala, who has a partially guaranteed contract for 2014-15.
Hill seems ready for his big break, and it's hard to see the well-stocked Hawks being able to give it to him.
5. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs have an explosive offense. They averaged 109.0 points per 100 possessions this past season, via NBA.com, tied for second-most in the league.
Hill is not a crafty offensive player. He's at his best when he doesn't have to create for himself. He shot 47.1 percent on post-up plays, via Synergy Sports (subscription required), but he converted 56.1 percent of his looks as a pick-and-roll screener and 55.5 percent of his shots after an offensive rebound.
Over 47 percent of Monta Ellis' offensive plays were pick-and-rolls. He demands defensive attention as a slasher, so Hill would have plenty of space to crash the basket. Not to mention the defenders who would be pulled away by Dirk Nowitzki and his career 38.3 three-point percentage.
The Mavericks could simplify the game for Hill, and he could use his size and athleticism to capitalize on those chances. The problem is, the same things could be said for current Mavericks bigs Tyson Chandler and Brandan Wright.
It would be tough maintaining any spacing with Hill playing alongside Chandler or Wright. Hill could find himself fighting for minutes with Wright, and it's hard to say how many would even be left behind Nowitzki and Chandler.
4. New York Knicks
Would Jordan Hill consider going back to where his NBA ride began? There are reasons he should at least consider it.
The competition for minutes would be almost non-existent.
Tyson Chandler's departure created a sizable void on the New York Knicks interior. The options to fill that hole either come with injury concerns (Amar'e Stoudemire), underwhelming skill sets (Samuel Dalembert) or both (Andrea Bargnani). Jeremy Tyler, who has a $0.9 million team option, hasn't shown enough to raise a red flag, which could be a red flag of its own considering he has three seasons under his belt.
The Knicks have a need for what Hill could bring. That's why Marc Berman of the New York Post identified him as one of New York's "potential big-man targets."
Between the potentially prominent role and major-market stage, Hill might decide to give his old club a long look.
Of course, the Knicks aren't the only ones who can put him under a spotlight. And they're the least financially flexible of the bunch.
Hill could do worse than returning to New York, but he could probably do better, too.
3. Boston Celtics
Hill should know how strong of suitors the Boston Celtics really are.
After all, both he and his representatives have had direct contact with the franchise, according to Sporting News' Sean Deveney.
The Celtics haven't offered many hints at how short or long their rebuilding process will be. They seemed to secure their backcourt of the future on draft night in Marcus Smart and James Young, but their backcourt of the present could be around for a while with Avery Bradley having agreed to a four-year extension.
With Hill, he would work under either blueprint. He can step right in and help now, but he could wind up playing an even greater role down the line.
"He turns just 27 in a few weeks and, at 6’10”, can provide the Boston Celtics with an interior presence they sorely lack," Bleacher Report's Michael Pina wrote.
Desperate for a big body to clog the paint, the Celtics could offer Hill one of the clearest paths to playing time. It remains to be seen, though, what type of contract they'd commit to him with the investments already made in young bigs Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk.
2. Houston Rockets
If Hill wants to compete for a starting gig, he'll have no reason to talk with the Houston Rockets.
Dwight Howard isn't going anywhere, and Terrence Jones showed enough this past season (12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds) that he shouldn't get bumped from the power forward spot unless Houston makes another free-agent splash.
No matter whom Hill would play behind, he'd definitely be looking at second-unit duties.
Hill has spoken with both coach Kevin McHale and general manager Daryl Morey, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Hill, who spent parts of two seasons with the Rockets, could be open to a return.
"Hill has said he enjoyed playing and living in Houston and is close with Howard from their season together," Feigen noted.
Houston could offer him a stable role, in a familiar environment, on a team that expects to contend for a title. That won't be easy to overlook.
However, one team can scratch a couple of those same itches, along with another extremely important one: financial security.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
On paper, it might seem like Hill's relationship with the Lakers is finished.
The franchise just spent its highest draft pick in 32 years on a high-motor post player in Julius Randle. The Lakers have been carefully monitoring their finances to ensure they're ready to strike if—or, considering the team's history, when—a superstar (or two) becomes obtainable.
Until LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are off the board, the Lakers won't budge on their offseason plans. That's potentially why the coaching seat remains vacant, and definitely the reason the roster is so light at the moment.
However, none of what has happened (or hasn't happened) so far has settled anything on Hill's future. He's keeping an eye on the coaching search, but he hasn't pushed himself out the door. The Lakers haven't, either.
"Obviously they have a lot of holes to fill in free agency...and they understand that the players need to see what their options are," a source told Deveney. "But they made it clear for both [Pau] Gasol and Hill, before you sign anything, talk to us."
Hill reportedly wants a multiyear contract, a source told Medina, and the Lakers might hesitate to give him a long-term deal.
However, they can keep him in his current home, with a coach who better understands how to use him, in a role where minutes are readily available. Assuming neither James nor Anthony comes to L.A., it would not be a surprise to see the Lakers throw an inflated, short-term deal in front of Hill.
With so many questions still surrounding his game, Hill's best move might be spending another year increasing his value before putting pen to paper on a long-term contract.