A little more than two months ago, Jordan Hill seemed like he might be on his way out of the league. He was buried on the Lakers bench after a midseason trade from the Rockets, passed over for backup minutes at power forward and center in favor of Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts.
Yet as the Thunder built an 18-point lead against the Lakers in a game during the last week of the regular season, Lakers coach Mike Brown summoned Hill off the bench, and the former eighth overall pick responded with 15 rebounds, six of them on the offensive end, to go along with 14 points in 35 minutes as L.A. came back to win in double overtime. From then on, Hill was the primary backup for both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, averaging 4.8 points and 6.3 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game in the playoffs. His offensive rebounding percentage of 18.9 is the best in the postseason so far. Suddenly, Hill is back on the radar for teams looking to improve their frontcourt depth and second-chance points.
The Lakers seem to be interested in bringing him back, but they'll have some limitations on how much they can give him, thanks to his former team. The Rockets, when they held his rights, declined the $3,632,527 team option on his contract for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer. According to Larry Coon's CBA FAQ, a team can't decline an option for a player on his rookie contract, like Hill, and attempt to re-sign him for the next season at a salary greater than the value of his option. That holds true for a team that inherits such a player's rights via trade, as the Lakers have done with Hill. According to Eric Pincus of HoopsWorld, the most Hill could get from the Lakers this summer is $20.9MM over five years, with a first-year salary matching that $3.6MM option. Another team could sign him for as much as $21.4MM over four years, but I don't think anyone is willing to pay quite that much for him.
If Hill leaves the Lakers, he could be an option for the Celtics, who had the worst offensive rebounding percentage of any team in the league this season and were riddled with injuries to frontcourt players. The Warriors, 29th in offensive rebounding, figure to improve with a healthy Andrew Bogut, so they might not pursue Hill. The Mavs, 28th in that category, could go after him as a complementary piece once they figure out what to do with the rest of their many offseason priorities. It's possible that a relatively proficient offensive rebounding team, like the Pistons, could see a bargain in a 25-year-old Hill and give him another shot as a starter. The most likely scenario involves Hill signing for a salary near that $3.6MM option amount. Whether that happens with the Lakers or not hinges largely on what the team does with Gasol and Bynum. If they're both back, I'd expect Hill to be back, too, since he allows the Lakers to go to their bench without much dropoff on the offensive glass, one of the team's hallmarks.