JJ Hickson: A Budding Star

Here’s my angle with this; Amare Stoudemire is a top ten guy in our league. There are no more than eight players you wouldn’t trade to get Amare in the whole NBA. He’s a stud. Microfracture surgery Shmicrofracture shurgery. Logic doesn’t apply to STAT.  This season alone he has had nineteen games of twelve rebounds or more. He averaged 29 points a game for the month of March, including three consecutive games of 30, a 44 point exhibition against Utah and a 29 and 16 effort against the Fakers. He’s a monster. He is also a guy we could have had (in a heartbeat) during the trade window. Amare and Bron on the same team? Come on, imagine that! But for one reason or another, we didn’t pull the trigger. I was kinda shocked when we didn’t, but you know something, it may prove to be the shrewdest move we did/didn’t make.
 
The reason we didn’t was due to a 21 year old from Atlanta, Georgia. A guy whom Courtney Lee, George Hill, Luc Mbah A Moute and Nicolas Batum saw selected before they were in 2008. That guy is James Edward Hickson, or to us Cavs faithful, JJ. Don’t fool yourselves, he is the reason Amare isn’t a Cavalier. Plain and simple. Phoenix wanted two things, cap relief and young talent. Z was the relief, JJ the young talent. Danny Ferry knows a good thing when he sees one (Christian Eyenga though, seriously??) and wasn’t about to surrender our coveted young big. You mean to tell me you wouldn’t trade JJ Hickson for Amare Stoudemire? A guy who averages 8 points for a guy who can get thirty whenever he wants? You’re nuts Ferry. JJ’s rookie season went as follows – 4 points and 2.7 boards in 11 minutes. Impressive huh? JJ’s rookie season was a yo-yo year to say the least. He wowed us with his jaw dropping athleticism (this guy can jump straight out of the Q) but ticked us off with his concentration lapses on the defensive end to the stage where we were ready to throw him out of the Q. He annoyed Coach Brown, he annoyed LeBron. It wasn’t pretty. What returned to training camp at the beginning of this season however was a thing of beauty.

 

His improved attitude and work ethic has paid dividends. He had his teamates boasting of how this young kid finally looked like the guy we hoped he would become. He shone against NBA veteran Jermaine O’Neal in Miami and outclassed that guy in Utah we all love so much. As the wins and praise built up, so did his confidence. In his rookie year if JJ got the ball eight to ten feet from the rim he’d take one bounce and go up for a dunk. That works against some of your NBA centers, but not the elite ones. He understands that now. He’s become a genuine threat from 15 feet with a soft touch I didn’t expect to see for another season or maybe even two (Dwight Howard still ain’t got one). Don’t get me wrong, he still tries the SportsCenter dunk every now and then, but his offensive game has evolved tenfold.  His apprenticeship under LeBron is blossoming well; the King has recently said JJ will be fine if he “keeps doing what I tell him to do.” In other words, JJ’s down with Number 23. If you’re down with him, you’re in Cleveland for a long time.
 
Having JJ playing at this level makes Coach Browns’ job so much easier. If JJ were still the inconsistent JJ from a year ago, Andy would have to start in the place of Shaq, thus leaving our bench lacking that kick we get from Andy coming off it. When Shaq comes back, JJ’s minutes will lessen, but he’ll still play a part. Look for him to get extended minutes against the slower bigs we’ll face in the postseason, they won’t be able to handle his explosiveness. Tim Duncan has found it hard to. Dwight Howard couldn’t stop him from racking up a 20 point night either, and let’s be honest; Howard is the measuring stick for centers nowadays. The kid that had more DNP’s than points in his rookie season is now a fixture for the best team in the league. His untapped potential is turning into night-in, night-out production.
 
You mean to tell me you wouldn’t trade JJ Hickson for Amare Stoudemire? You’re brilliant Ferry…
Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.

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