The Los Angeles Lakers are in an unfamiliar position in the 2014 NBA offseason of rebuilding. With only Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall currently on the books for the 2014-15 season, there are plenty of paths the Lakers’ front office could take.
The first path is to repair the relationship with Jordan Hill after it was left in tatters by departed head coach Mike D’Antoni. Hill was a bright spot in an otherwise dark season in Los Angeles despite the erratic game time given to him. The inconsistency in minutes has led him to previously question the possibility of a return to the Lakers next season.
Asked by InsideSoCal’s Mark Medina if he would return to the team in his current capacity, he didn’t give Lakers fans much hope:
“Of course not. Who would?”
Hill wasn’t a consistent part of D’Antoni’s plans despite his career best numbers. He was forced to share minutes with Chris Kaman and Sacre, who Hill both outperformed most nights. And D’Antoni’s attempt to run opposing teams off the court by going small meant there were limited minutes to go round for the 7-footers.
Now, with D’Antoni gone and the prospects of a more conventional coach who could use the defense, rebounding and hustle of Hill heading the Lakers next season, he should re-sign with the club. His main reason for joining any team this offseason is playing time, something the Lakers can give him with only Sacre signed on in the center position.
In his 20.8 minutes per game this season, Hill was able to pull down 7.4 rebounds while scoring 9.7 points. His per 36 minutes stats are those of a legitimate starting center in the league at 12.8 rebounds and 16.7 points per game. The Lakers are a franchise built around big men when they are contending for a championship, and while Hill isn’t yet at a championship level, neither are the Lakers. He is the right fit for now, especially with a small number of free agent centers in the Lakers role-player price range.
Hill gained a loyal following last season due to his performance on the court and his patience and humbleness off the court when put in the frustrating position of inconsistent minutes. Most fans were calling for Hill to be starting all season long, so any new coach joining the team would go a long way to raising the spirits of a depressed fan base by bringing Hill back as the starting center.
Hill wants to stay in Los Angeles if they can meet his needs. The Lakers are currently in a position to meet those needs, and that’s unlikely to change outside of an unexpected blockbuster trade. They can sign a good role player in an important position who the fans and current players love. Re-signing Hill for the 2014-15 season is a must for the Lakers.