Dwight Howard’s Departure Opens Huge Opportunity for Jordan Hill

Andre Khatchaturian —  July 11, 2013

The stakes are high for Jordan Hill.

With Dwight Howard now in Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to need heavy contributions from Hill as he steps into what could be a starter’s role if they’re going to make any sort of run this season.

The Lakers may have added big man Chris Kaman, but the chances Hill starts during the regular season remain pretty high. Even if he doesn’t start, you can definitely expect him to be playing more than the 15.8 minutes per game he was getting last year.

In limited action, Hill has shown that he can be an effective and useful player when healthy.

For one, Hill cleans the glass better than Windex or 409, scooping up 20.3 percent of all available offensive rebounds – the best in the NBA for players who played at least 25 games. That essentially means the Lakers will gain an extra possession for every five missed shots where Hill is under the rim. This is important for a team that will be relying on as many offensive possessions possible to win games.

Secondly, Hill was the epitome of efficiency as portrayed by his impressive Per 36 numbers. He averaged 15.2 points and 13 rebounds per 36 minutes and had a PER of 18.5.

Finally, he’s been a solid scoring option from the paint, hitting over 58 percent of his field goals from the restricted area. These are numbers that are screaming for a chance to play more minutes.

Despite these promising stats, Hill is coming off major hip surgery. He only played in 29 games last season before returning in the playoffs and playing scarcely. That being said, Hill has had all summer to rest up and has shown he can play a full NBA season, playing 72 games in 2010-11.

With Kobe Bryant out for possibly the first two months of the season, Hill has his work cut out for him. He is all of a sudden the third option for the Lakers.

Now is the time for the No. 8 overall pick from the 2009 NBA Draft to play like a No. 8 overall pick. He will be earning $3.56 million in 2013-14 and he has the opportunity to perhaps double or triple that amount when he enters free agency next summer if he steps up and becomes a reliable starter for the Lakers.

In a sense, Hill is going to be the one filling in Dwight’s massive shoes. No one is expecting him to match his output, but he has shown he has the talent to be a difference maker that alleviates pressure off Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, and Kobe. A strong season from him will be a pleasant surprise for a team that has seemingly had every break go against it throughout the past nine months.

So can Hill “extrapolate” his Per 36 numbers and rise up to the occasion to become a key contributor for the Lakers?

Statistical support from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.

Andre Khatchaturian