At present, Portland is one game over .500 and just a half-game outside the Western Conference playoff bubble. In the midst of a rebuild, few expected the Blazers to toil with a .500 record, let alone a playoff berth.
But it’s happened. The play of rookie Damian Lillard has been spectacular, LaMarcus Aldridge remains understatedly dominant and Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews have come a long way. Oh, and there’s also that guy Hickson. The same Hickson who has played for three different teams in five years. The same Hickson who was long considered a draft bust.
And the same Hickson who is now dominating the hardwood on a consistent basis.
Averaging 12.2 points and 11 boards a game, Hickson is one of only 13 NBA players posting double-doubles on a daily basis. His PER stands at 20.04 and he’s become an force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor.
Hickson is generating a wealth of interest from outside teams.
Per Chris Haynes of Comcast Sportsnet, multiple organizations have contacted Hickson’s agent to see if he would be open to relocating:
Portland Trail Blazers 6-9 power forward/center JJ Hickson has been receiving exploratory interest from a handful of teams looking to potentially swap for his services before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, a source close to the situation told CSNNW.com.
However, these teams have not made contact with Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey, just yet. The inquiring phone calls are going to Hickson’s agent Andy Miller, first, the source said.
Here’s why: Hickson is a Bird Rights player on a one-year, $4 million deal and he has the power to veto any trade that is proposed. If he approves a deal, he will lose his Bird Rights. It would have to be the right team and the right situation for Hickson to give up his rights.
Given Hickson’s current production, it’s easy to forget that he spent the previous four seasons struggling to maintain any value at all, let alone distinguish himself from the rest of the league’s bigs. But also given his production, it’s no wonder teams are interested in acquiring his services. He’s proved to be a two-way presence that will not be overmatched.
Which is exactly why the Blazers shouldn’t even consider dealing him.
I understand that Hickson is due for a large increase over the $4 million he’s making now, but there’s no denying that Portland could use his post presence as it attempts to develop Meyers Leonard. More importantly, the Blazers are the same team that was willing to line Roy Hibbert’s pockets with more than $50 million last summer, and Hickson is currently outscoring and out-rebounding him.
I’m not suggesting Hickson deserves a similarly structured deal, because he doesn’t. Hell, Hibbert didn’t even deserve what he received. That said, Hickson does deserve a raise, and the Blazers should be willing to give it to him.
Though the big man may not be a future All-Star, he’s proved to be a double-double machine, a perfect complement to the ever underrated stylings of LaMarcus Aldridge. Why would you give that up, even if it meant deepening a wafer thing supporting cast?
Unless Portland receives a star-caliber player in return (it won’t) even entertaining the notion of moving Hickson is pointless. Right now, in the Blazers, we have a team that was supposed to be a cellar dweller. Nearly halfway through the season, though, it’s become clear that they’re a player or two (or three) away from legitimate contention. Hickson’s a part of that. He’s a huge part of that.
No, Portland isn’t actively shopping Hickson, so this essentially serves as a refresher. But it’s an important one.
Only last summer, the Blazers were looking for a big to play alongside Aldridge who had the potential to average a double-double. And they found one, in the most unlikely of forms.
Now that they have him, though, they must be sure not to let him go.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.