UPDATE: Well, the decision has become official:
Lakers declined their team option on Jordan Hill
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 29, 2015
With Hill’s contract now off the books, the Lakers will have an estimated $22-24 million to play with in free agency. Which path they choose when trying to spend that money remains to be seen, but this move hints at their want to try and make a big splash when July 1st rolls around.
(Originally posted on June 19th)
With all the focus on next week’s NBA draft, it is easy to forget the Lakers have another decision pending besides who they select with the #2 overall pick. Before June 30th, they must also decide whether or not to exercise the team option they control on Jordan Hill’s contract, an option which would pay him $9 million next season.
As the Los Angeles Lakers maneuver to free $24 million-plus of salary cap space for summer free agency, the franchise is unlikely to exercise the option on forward Jordan Hill’s contract for the 2015-16 season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Lakers are not obligated to make a final determination on the $9 million owed on Hill’s contract before June 30, but momentum is strong that they’ll allow Hill to enter into free agency, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Wojnarowski goes on to explain the Lakers want to chase top tier free agents (including LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, and Goran Dragic) and will use the money saved from Hill’s contract to try and lure a high level addition.
If they are unsuccessful in these pursuits, they could always try to re-sign Hill (likely to a contract paying him less money), chase other role players with some or all of that cap space, or roll over that money to the summer of 2016 when other top available free agents (namely a certain OKC small forward) will hit the market.
That’s down the line, of course, but the planning for such moves must be done now and the Lakers, with cap space looming, Kobe’s contract set to expire after the upcoming season, and the cap making a big jump next summer (and in future ones), would be wise to plan their path back to contention now with all those variables contributing to their decisions.
The other option, of course, would be to pick up Hill’s option, only to try and trade him. Due to the nature of Hill’s contract and the fact he’d lose his Bird Rights if traded, he has veto power over any deal if his option is not picked up first. This fact complicates any deal and, likely kills any chance the Lakers pursue this route without having advanced talks with teams leading up to the draft where a swap with a team seeking a veteran player of Hill’s stature might want to make a move. This, though, is further complicated by the rules which govern trades. The Lakers would undoubtedly need to take on some salary in any return Hill brought, defeating the purpose of why you’d move Hill in the first place (the salary savings).
So, as it stands (and as Wojnarowaski reported), this likely means letting Hill explore the market this summer and using those savings towards player(s) who can make a bigger impact. We will no for sure by June 30th, however.