The Lakers have yet to reach a deal with unrestricted free agent Jordan Hill. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
It may be hard to address considering plenty of the Lakers' focus centers on whether they'll get Dwight Howard, or if he'll continue twisting in the wind.
Regardless, the Lakers' championship aspirations also rest on what degree they upgrade their bench, which finished last in the NBA last season in points (30.5), 20th in shooting percentage (21.8%) and 28th in efficiency (27.2). The Lakers already took a major step by adding veteran forward Antawn Jamison to a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum. But there's another that could largely determine whether the Lakers have enough bench contribution to support their stellar albeit aging starting lineup.
That involves whether the Lakers re-sign Jordan Hill. Below are a very point-counter points to consider.
Why the Lakers should re-sign Hill: Had everything gone according to plan, Hill would've sat on the bench all season and the Lakers would've let him walk afterward. That didn't happen. Lakers Coach Mike Brown randomly inserted him into the starting lineup in a regular-season game April 22 against Oklahoma City, and the results proved spectacular. Hill logged 14 points and 15 rebounds, suddenly became a crowd favorite and earned a permanent spot in the rotation.
Hill followed that up by averaging 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds for the Lakers' seven remaining regular-season games. He soon became what Denver Coach George Karl called a "wild card" in the first-round series, posting 4.8 points and 6.3 rebounds. That whole time, Hill provided tons of energy, infectious enthusiasm and a consistent presence both on defense and on the boards.
Hill provides all the qualities the Lakers need in their entire bench. But here's the scary part: his potential remains untapped. He didn't have much time to learn Mike Brown's playbook. Hill could easily improve his raw skills in the post and on running sets simply through more practice time. His blue-collar approach serves as the perfect complement toward Jamison's scoring.
The Lakers have to weigh their finances, but they're in a better position to ensure Hill won't leave for more lucrative deals. The Lakers hold partial Bird rights to him and can offer Hill for up to $3.6 million a season for the next five years. Considering his age (24), consistent energy and strong upside, Hill's well worth the investment.
Why the Lakers should let Hill walk: With the strong interest the Minnesota Timberwolves have reportedly expressed in Hill, the Lakers can't exactly afford to get in a bidding war over his services. As valuable as he could become for the Lakers, it's possible the late-season surge proved nothing more than a shot of adrenaline.
Teams were caught by surprise with Hill's emergence. Hill may turn out with the Lakers the same way Josh McRoberts fared, an energetic forward who eventually fizzled out. Antawn Jamison's presence also gives the Lakers an insurance policy for the Lakers to be able to absorb Hill's possible departure. All these variables provide some warning signs that the Lakers shouldn't evaluate Hill through his surprising play late in the season.
Verdict: There are very few legitimate free-agent candidates left on the market. Though the Lakers want to minimize costs because of the Steve Nash acquisition and possible Howard deal, they should show some more flexibility toward Hill. He proved when the stakes were at their highest that the Lakers could consistently rely on his energy. Because of that hunger, it's more likely Hill will show immediate improvement and show more investment on the Lakers' return.
You've read my take. Now what's yours? Vote in the poll below and explain further in the comments section below.