Player Capsule: Jordan Hill
For all of L.A.’s injuries in 2012-13, no player was hit with the bug worse than Jordan Hill, whose stretch of solid play in the middle of the season was cut short due to a tear of the labrum in his left hip.
In a good sign for next season, Hill did manage to return three months earlier than the original recovery projection to appear in three of the team’s four playoff games, but his ailing hip wasn’t his only injury of the season.
Things got off on the proverbial wrong foot for Hill when he suffered a herniated disc in training camp. However, Hill overcame the disc issue to start the season on the active roster, and ended up appearing in 29 games to average 6.7 points on 49.7 percent shooting with 5.7 boards per night in just 15.8 minutes per game.
A tremendous rebounder, Hill averaged 13.0 boards per 36 minutes* – 6.4 offensive – plus 15.2 points and 1.5 blocks. Since his rookie year in 2009-10, he’s never played more than the 15.8 minutes he did last season; how he’d handle an increased work load has yet to be seen. Such is the energy level with which Hill plays that his per 36 numbers may be difficult to attain, but the potential for very strong production exists.
*Dwight Howard led the league with 12.4 boards per game, and averaged 12.5 per 36 minutes.
Hill was very efficient at the rim, finishing 65.2 percent of his shots (per NBA.com). He struggled in between the rim and midrange, hitting 40.7 percent from 3-9 feet (touch shots), but showed the ability to connect from 10-15 feet at 50 percent. He made 33 percent from 16-23 feet, with plans to work on his range in the offseason so as to be better equipped to play power forward or even center in small line ups.
Defensively, Hill showed the ability to protect the rim from the weak side – never to be underrated in the NBA – and held up well against most bigs. However, his team defense still needs work, which could be aided by more time on the court.
The 6-10 Arizona product was playing his best basketball in early January, averaging 12.0 points on 56 percent field goals and 6.7 rebounds in 17.7 minutes as he looked to become a bigger part of Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. The hip injury on Jan. 6 against Denver cut that progression short.
Hill had surgery shortly thereafter and rehabbed aggressively before returning to play 31 playoff minutes to total 10 points, 11 boards and two blocks.
He was happy to at least get a bit of court time under his belt.
“I feel great,” Hill said at exit interviews. “Probably was a smart thing to keep it rested, but I felt good about it and I just wanted to play, definitely in the playoffs.”
It certainly didn’t hurt Hill to come back early, but perhaps allowed him to build some offseason momentum. Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti expects Hill to be “fully functional” at the start of next season.
It’s Hill’s hope that he can thus build on the form he started to find as the first big off the bench in his truncated 2012-13.