Can Jordan Hill Handle Wear and Tear of Being a Starting Center?

Coming off a career season, Jordan Hill was given a hefty raise by the Los Angeles Lakers with a new two-year deal worth $18 million.

While Hill’s stats of 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game were solid, they came within the context of playing just 21 minutes per game, usually off the bench. The high-energy big man is typically at his most effective when channeling his intensity into limited blocks of playing time.

Yet $9 million per season is starter’s money in the NBA and with Pau Gasol gone, Hill will likely find himself as the Lakers' starting center. How will he handle the increased responsibility as well as the wear and tear of a long NBA season?

A raw, unranked high school prospect, Hill burst onto the NCAA scene for the University of Arizona and was the No. 8 draft pick by the New York Knicks in 2009. He had a disappointing rookie season as a power forward under Mike D’Antoni, however, and was sent to the Houston Rockets as a relatively minor chip in the three-team deal that brought Tracy McGrady to New York.

Hill averaged 16 minutes per game as a backup center in Houston, suffering a right MCL injury in February 2012 before being traded to the Lakers for Derek Fisher. Hill reinjured his right MCL after joining the Lakers and didn’t play until the tail end of the regular season, impressing coach Mike Brown with his hustle and athleticism, and earning solid minutes during the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The following season, he appeared in only 29 games due to a herniated disc followed by a hip injury that required surgery.

The knock on Hill over his sporadic five-year NBA career has been twofold: First, he has never truly developed a fundamentally polished back-to-the-basket low-post game. And second, his helter-skelter energy can become a weakness when it results in either an inability to play extended minutes or injuries that rob his season.<...

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