After being outplayed by Ed Davis, having the cheap and affordable Tarik Black already on the roster, and Robert Sacre reportedly being brought back for another season, the Lakers exercising Jordan Hill’s $9M team option for this upcoming season always seemed a bit unlikely.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports basically confirmed this notion on Friday when he reported that the Lakers are unlikely to exercise his option and will “allow Hill to enter free agency”.
After the Lakers missed (they dodged a huge bullet) on Carmelo, they quickly signed Hill to this two-year $18M deal with the second year being a team option. At the time many, myself included, believed that the contract was setup perfectly to be a trade chip at the trade deadline. Contending teams could take on a useful energy big without committing long-term money, and teams looking to clear cap space or bad contracts off the books could find Hill’s basically expiring contract useful.
The trade deadline passed and the Lakers made no deals. It was surprising and frankly did not make a ton of sense. I would’ve liked to see them get at least a second round pick for Hill instead of letting him walk for nothing.
Whatever, it’s not really a huge deal. BUT, the next thing that terrified the Lakers fan base was the fear that the team was unfathomably going to exercise his overpriced team option. There were even some reports that said they were “likely” to pick it up.
Thankfully, that’s not going to happen.
But is Hill’s time with the Lakers up? The Lakers will have over $20M in cap space and they could sign Hill to a new deal. Should they? No.
Hill’s performance last year really irked me. He strayed away from things he’s good at. He floated around the elbow looking to hoist up another one of his mid-range set shots. He had a career-low 49.4 TS%. Not only did he fail to make these shots at an efficient rate (he shot 34% from 10-16 feet, and 39.5% from 16 feet to the three point line), he took himself away from the paint and more importantly, off the offensive glass. His offensive rebounding percentage dropped from 14% in 2013-2014 to a meager 9.9% in 2014-2015. In 2012-2013, it was over 20%. That’s certainly a concerning dip. He always needed to add a respectable jumper to his game, as Mike D’Antoni urged him to do, but it should never become the staple of his game.
And for a player that doesn’t really do much else that well, playing away from his strengths resulted in a lackluster season. If the Lakers are going to spend $6-9M on a big man, they’d be better off chasing Ed Davis. But in a perfect world, the Lakers would spend that money on what this roster desperately needs: a 3-and-D wing.
Anyway, a contending team could still find use for Jordan Hill. He’s not a starter, and shouldn’t play major minutes. He’s best in the role he had on the Dwight and Kobe Lakers, which was as an energy big that created extra possessions by crashing the glass. He’ll probably get a contract worth around $6M per season, which he can prove he’s worth in the right fit, but that fit isn’t on this rebuilding Lakers team. Especially not one that is expected to add either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor to the roster in the next few days.
The goal should be to let the young players like Ryan Kelly, Julius Randle, Tarik Black, and JaKarl Okatowns develop by getting as many minutes as possible. And that’s exactly what it appears the Lakers are doing.