I will be the first to admit that I was in shock when I saw the number the Lakers handed out to Jordan Hill.
A two-year deal worth up to $18 million, according to Basketball Insiders. The Lakers will hold a team option on the second year, but $9 million dollars a year for a guy who seems to be best suited off the bench?
Definitely questionable on the surface, and I am a fan of Hill’s contributions.
The Lakers have come under criticism for dealing out such a big salary to a guy who has never played starter’s minutes in the league, and rightfully so; they are paying a premium for Hill’s services. When considering that the Los Angeles Clippers signed center Spencer Hawes to a four-year, $23 million dollar deal, and the Orlando Magic gave big man Channing Frye a four-year, $32 million dollar deal (one that is front-loaded, mind you), Hill nabbing $9 million per year is quite the cash grab by the young forward-center.
However, in regards to Hill’s value to the Lakers overall, I find much of the criticism to be unfounded.
Is Hill worth the money the Lakers gave him? Probably not.
Can he be an asset at that price? Almost assuredly.
Between his production and his contract, the Lakers will find value in Jordan Hill.
By The Numbers
On the surface, Hill is definitely not worth what he’s currently scheduled to make. He’s never played more than 20.8 minutes per game (last year), and never averaged double-digits in points or rebounds; his current career highs were set last season at 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
These are good numbers for a backup big man, but $9 million a year is starter’s money. I’ve always seen Hill as a bench big who brings energy, and though he’s an excellent rebounder no matter his role, nothing he’s shown me makes me believe otherwise. However, there’s a case to be made he can be effective as a starter.
Per 36 Minutes Numbers
Player A: 19.5 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 1.9 BPG
Player B: 12.9 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG
Player C: 16.7 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 0.9 BPG
Player D: 15.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG
These guys are all relatively close in their stats, with Player B being a lesser scorer, Player D being a lesser rebounder, and Player C being a lesser shot blocker per 36 minutes. These are three “mystery” elite NBA centers and Jordan Hill. Player A is Dwight Howard, Player B is Joakim Noah, Player C is Hill, and Player D is Marc Gasol. The numbers stack up more favorably in Hill’s favor than you might think.
Am I suggesting that Hill is as good as any of these guys? Absolutely not. Stats can be used in a variety of ways by anybody to make nearly any case. For example, Hill has 1.4 defensive win shares for last season, Howard had a 4.1 DWS, Noah had a 6.6 DWS, and Gasol had a 3.1 DWS. According to these numbers, Hill is not near their level defensively, and almost everyone would agree with that notion.
However, Hill has put up good per-36 numbers throughout his career. At 26, it’s entirely possible that he could improve and become a legit starting center in the NBA. He has the capability to be an elite rebounder, and he can chip in his fair share of points. If he averages a double-double is he worth $9 million a year?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but it’s a fairly exclusive club. 10 players averaged at least 10 points and 10 rebounds a game last year (among those who played 70 percent of their team’s games) and all of them are admittedly better than Hill. If he joins that group in terms of statistics, he probably doesn’t get laughed out of a room if he asks for $9 million a year, at least not immediately.
All stats are contextual, and Hill definitely benefited from playing in the fast and furious Mike D’Antoni system. He played more last season and set career highs in several important areas. To deny the system’s impact would be foolish, just as much as it would be foolish to deny the impact of playing more minutes. As is usually the case, the truth likely lies somewhere in between.
No matter what you think about Jordan Hill, he has one high-end NBA skill: rebounding. That skill transcends any system, and should be an asset moving forward for him and whichever team he plays for. Whether one believes it’s worth $9 million a year is, again, a subjective topic that his highly contextual.
Contractual Value For The Lakers
Let’s throw out the value of the player for this section. In terms of how Hill’s contract can be used as an asset for the Lakers, there is value to be found due to the money he’s being paid.
To start off, Hill is basically playing on a $9 million, one-year deal. If the Lakers choose to decline his option for the second year, he will become an unrestricted free agent and his contract comes off the books for the 2015-16 season. This provides the Lakers flexibility to pursue star talent next summer, and that cannot be understated in this case.
If they choose to exercise Hill’s option, he becomes a $9 million expiring contract that can be flipped to teams that desire cap space, allowing the Lakers to acquire assets in a deal. As a team that is devoid of draft considerations for quite some time, flipping Hill for a future first and a solid player is not a terrible scenario. In the best case, the Lakers can use Hill’s salary to make a big-time trade happen. In the worst case, they use him for a year, decline his option, and move forward. Anything in between can be helpful towards the rebuild.
In any event, the contract itself has some value, and that cannot be understated. Big salaried, expiring deals have value in the NBA, and the Lakers crafted Hill’s deal to make him an asset, even if he flames out on the court.
Perspective On Jordan Hill
To conclude, Jordan Hill can prove to be an asset for the Los Angeles Lakers.
While he admittedly is not an elite-level center in the NBA, he put up Per 36 Minutes numbers that were quite competitive in that realm. If he continues to improve, his $9 million dollar contract might not be all that outrageous.
Even if it is, the contract itself has some value. A year from now, we could be talking about the Lakers being involved in a sign-and-trade deal that would make Hill a crucial piece in that swap. Or, in the worst case, his second-year option is declined and he can go on his way.
In any event, the contract does not hurt the Lakers. He signed for the massive amount of money after the free agent market had all but dried up, and his deal is essentially for one year. The Lakers are fully in control of what to do with Hill next year, and could use him as a trade chip to acquire the next building block for their future.
And who knows? Perhaps next year I’ll be writing about how Hill’s contract was an instrumental piece in the Laker’s sign-and-trade for one of the star free agents. Maybe Hill proves us all wrong and puts up huge numbers in Byron Scott‘s system.
Either way, in the end, the Lakers have an asset in Jordan Hill’s contract, in large part to how he’s being compensated.
Stats provided by www.basketball-reference.com, contract information provided by www.basketballinsiders.com.