Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Can the Trail Blazers afford to NOT re-sign J.J. Hickson?

After re-signing him on a one-year, $4 million deal, Portland has got tremendous value from J.J. Hickson this season, as he's averaging a double-double, while shooting a career-high 56.3% from the field. After a relatively cool market on Hickson led to him re-signing with Portland, as teams were no doubt leery to make a big money long-term commitment for what amount to a strong 20-game stretch, Hickson's strong performance this season will no doubt make him a valuable commodity.

Still just 24 years old, Hickson should be entering the prime of his career, and his strength and athleticism allow him to be one of the best per-minute rebounders in the NBA. His 10.7 rebounds per game rank him 8th in the entire NBA, and nobody ahead of him on that list plays fewer minutes per game than Hickson. He's also a major threat on the pick-and-roll, where he uses that great athleticism to attack the basket (though his free throw shooting has been spotty to this point).

Hickson is not without his limitations, as he's struggled defensively while playing at center (he's a natural power forward), as his size (6'9", 239) makes him one of the shortest centers in the league. He also struggles when forced to hedge on pick-and-rolls, and gets caught out of position when Portland switches to a zone defense.

While Portland and general manager Neil Olshey no doubt have bigger names in mind with their cap room (which could potentially be around $12 million), Hickson has proven to be a productive and consistent performer this season. Should the team miss out on some of the marquee free agents they might pursue, it would perhaps be prudent for the team to consider bringing Hickson back on a long-term contract. Though he's ideally better suited as the first big man off the bench, a re-signed Hickson would provide the team time for rookie center Meyers Leonard to develop while giving the team a solid young frontcourt rotation around All Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

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