Free agent profile: Grant Hill
This is the 14th post in a series of profiles analyzing a free agent and how he might fit with the Lakers.
Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill
Type of free agent: Unrestricted
Positives: Even at 38, Grant Hill isn't ready to retire, telling the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn that he's willing to wait out a prolonged lockout so he can have the chance to win an NBA title. Sure, the Lakers are looking to add more youth to a veteran-laden team, but adding Hill would fill a few needs. They would improve their defense, given Hill has thrived in guarding top perimeter players, such as Kobe Bryant. In the last four seasons with Phoenix, Hill averaged 13.2 points and appeared in 313 of 328 games, meaning concerns about his numerous ankle and hernia injuries that sidelined him for significant time in four seasons with Orlando are probably unfounded. Hill's willingness to play any role and and his versatile skills make it conceivable the Lakers could add him as a reserve.
If Jason Kidd taught us anything during the Dallas Mavericks' championship run, it's that age only matters if that player isn't making the necessary adjustments to stay relevant. Hill never returned to leading role he played when amassing 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,270 assists in six seasons with the Detroit Pistons. But he reinvented himself by taking care of his body and playing efficiently on defense.
Having that veteran mind-set will bode well with Bryant, who has long respected Hill's longevity and work ethic. All accounts show that Grant is a class act and won't cause any problems. And because of his desire to win an NBA championship before his career ends, the Lakers could sign Hill at a bargain price.
Negatives: Regardless of Hill's ability to play effectively at a older age, numbers are numbers. He's 38 and doesn't address the Lakers' desire and need to secure young players for their future. Plus, the Lakers can cite a few cases, such as Karl Malone and Gary Payton, that signing a veteran star eager to win a title doesn't instantly bolster the team's championship chances. The same can be said for last season's veteran-laded bench. Hill might have trouble finding an identity on the roster, delegating to everyone else because of his want to fit in. Likewise, Hill may not command the same sort of veteran respect he should be given since he hasn't won a ring yet.
Verdict: Both Hill and the Suns' front office expressed interest to the Arizona Republic's Paul Coro that Hill re-signs with Phoenix. Even if the Suns or the Celtics, as Washburn suggested, are also interested in acquiring Hill, the Lakers shouldn't shy away from chasing him. Because of the Lakers' limitations with making roster moves without trading away their core lineup, signing Hill to a one-year deal would serve as an appropriate "tweak" to the roster.
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Photo: Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill often defended Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times