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Will Lakers Swing a Last-Minute Jordan Hill Trade Before the 2015 Deadline?

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2015

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29: Jordan Hill #27 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the Chicago Bulls at STAPLES Center on January 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

There are some solid reasons for the Los Angeles Lakers to try to trade their top big man, Jordan Hill, before Thursday's deadline.

However, we're now less than 48 hours away, and there hasn't yet been any tangible signs of action.

Then again, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is known for his stealthy ways.

Might a last minute surprise be in the cards?

Los Angeles gave Hill a two-year, $18 million contract last summer, but the second year is a team option.

And while the 27-year-old has made a case for his NBA validity, it’s far from a given that the Lakers will want to commit to that second $9 million before heading into free agency this summer.

If in fact there is such trepidation, management would certainly welcome cashing out their asset.

Sean Highkin @highkin

Which borderline playoff team is going to give up a first-rounder for Jordan Hill?I'd say the Nets but they have no picks until 2050.

As Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal writes, something is better than nothing:

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No matter what L.A. got in return, it would be worth parting with the big man. Hill isn't a huge part of the future and can be at least partially replaced by Julius Randle upon the rookie's return from injury next season. Getting any draft picks or cheap young players would be the icing on top of the cap space gained by removing him from the roster.

But is there a way for a rebuilding Lakers team to actually do better than that?

Hill has demonstrated continued potential in his first season as a full-time starter, averaging 12.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in an economical 28 minutes per game. In the processhe’s had a slew of impressive double-doubles this season, including 26 points and 12 boards while playing 41 hard minutes in a double-overtime win against the Chicago Bulls Jan. 29.

But the 6’10” 235-pound hustle player has never been especially durable, and he played just seven minutes in the following game before leaving with a right hip flexor strain.

He has not appeared in a game since then—not exactly a prime means of showcasing a trade candidate during the stretch run of swapping season. 

Serena Winters @SerenaWinters

Byron Scott said he's pretty much pencilling Jordan Hill "out until after the All-Star break & then we’ll see how he feels."

Also, the former Arizona Wildcat cannot be considered by other teams as an expiring contract due to his Bird rights. As Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders notes, Hill can block a deal unless the Lakers first exercise their option for next season.

In other words, a team interested in Hill would be one that’s in the playoff hunt now, and needing frontcourt depth to put their efforts over the top.

So who out there would be the most logical trade partner for the Lakers? The answer is the Phoenix Suns—a team in need of roster balance, and also possessing an upcoming free agent that the Lakers covet in a major way—that being Goran Dragic.

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Sure, it’s a longshot. But it’s not inconceivable, not with the latest information coming out of the Dragic camp. Apparently, the Slovenian guard has decided that the sun has set in Phoenix.

As Sam Amick for USA Today Sports writes: “According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the representatives for the Suns point guard told team officials in a Tuesday meeting that he has no plans to re-sign in Phoenix this summer as a free agent.”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports adds that the Lakers are one of the teams on Dragic’s wish list:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

The Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks are among preferred destinations for Goran Dragic, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

The 28-year-old guard had been the subject of swirling rumors in recent days, with an interesting admission coming from Suns general manager Ryan McDonough during an interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 (h/t Adam Green for ArizonaSports.com):

We are a little too backcourt heavy, especially in terms of guys who, you know, I think you'd define primarily as scorers in the backcourt. So I think at some point we'll need to balance that out, try to get a little more size, a little more frontcourt scoring and rebounding.

If Hill's hip is right, he could step right into the breech for the Suns and start taking it to the hole on offense while snagging boards on the other end.

And, given his penchant for providing bursts of energy and athleticism in somewhat limited minutes, the combo center/power forward would provide a nice boost alongside Arizona big men Alex Len and Miles Plumlee, who are scoring fewer points combined than Hill is on his own.

In return, L.A. would finally get what they have so sorely needed for so long—a quality, dependable, fiercely competitive point guard.

The Lakers would need to offer more than Hill to entice the Suns, however—especially with the last-minute feeding frenzy that has ensued. One interesting possibility would be the idea of the Lakers waiving the top-five protection status of the draft pick they already owe the Suns this year.

For those who think that’s folly, remember—acquiring Dragic this season could potentially add just enough wins to bump the Lakers out of their top-five protected pick status anyway (owed to PHX), making it a moot point.

One way or another, Phoenix will get their pound of flesh—the pick is top-five this year, top-three in 2016 or 2017, and unprotected in 2018.  It’s just a matter of when.

Another advantage to securing the point guard ahead of free agency would be obtaining his Bird rights, plus his cap hold of only $11.25 million, allowing more flexibility this summer while negotiating with him, and also pursuing other free agents.

Eric Pincus @EricPincus

If the Lakers trade for Dragic, then sign over summer - they have more spending power than outright going after Dragic in FA

A lesser concession would be offering the first-round pick L.A. obtained from the Houston Rockets as part of the Jeremy Lin trade. That pick is top-14 protected for Houston, but given the Rockets’ current standings, it is unlikely they would slip far enough to hold onto it.

Or, the Lakers could add hardworking big man Ed Davis or shooting guard Wayne Ellington.

In any of these scenarios Los Angeles would have to take back another piece to make the numbers balance out—Dragic’s salary of $7.5 million already being less than Hill’s.

One possibility would be Gerald Green if the Suns would consider parting with him. Or what about Goran’s younger brother, Zoran—a lefty shooting guard who has played only six games this season for the Suns?

At the end of the day, such a trade may seem a remote possibility. But it is one that can give each team something of true value.

Will the Lakers be able to move Hill before the deadline?

With a willing partner and a deal that makes sense, yes. But time is running out.

They better start swinging for the fences.

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