I was on vacation late last week when the JJ Hickson trade news broke. The trip was great, thanks for asking, but it did prevent me from offering my thoughts on the departure of the 22-year old player known fondly around these interwebs as The Hickson. Omri Casspi is a nice young player, and I liked him a lot when he first broke into the league. Still do too, even after his rookie numbers dipped a bit in his second NBA season. I think Casspi is a hard-nosed, team-first player, who’s fueled by a strong desire to win, and plays with some ability to help dictate that outcome. I’m not upset at all about the fact that he’s on this Cavaliers team. I also suppose that at some point over the next five years, the Kings may play their way out of the lottery too. When they do, the Cavs could also cash in that lottery protected first rounder they added in this deal by picking somewhere around the same mid-first round spot they took JJ in a couple years back. So right now the deal looks to have some promise for the Cavaliers, but I’ll follow-up in three years with my final grade on the totality of this transaction then. It’s much easier to be accurate that way.
For now though, I just wanted to wish JJ Hickson well on his travels out west to SacTown. In some ways, I can see where Chris Grant may have felt that he had to be moved. The Cavs needed a SF, they couldn’t draft one because Harrison Barnes is still a Tarheel, and by adding Tristan Thompson the writing was all over the proverbial wall. There’s no room on an NBA roster for twenty-seven PF’s, and somebody had to get dealt. That guy was JJ Hickson, and I get that, but I’d also be lying to you if I tried to tell you that I’m glad to see him go. There’s a part of me that wonders what would’ve happened if Enes Kanter fell to four. I also wonder if the Cavaliers organization thought Kanter would, or if they thought a trade partner would come flying out of the woodwork to move into their fourth spot if he didn’t. I’m encouraged by what Tristan Thompson could become in this league, but I do wonder how calculated a move his selection was on draft night. They started to convince me that Tristan was “higher than three” on their board early last week, but I did start questioning the legitimacy of that statement all over again when Hickson got traded about 15 minutes before the NBA locked-out and shut down for the foreseeable future. Could a better deal have been had later? Was there a better offer that was passed up on leading up to draft night? Probably not, but I suppose we’ll never know that for sure.
We’ll also never know what JJ Hickson could’ve become as a Cleveland Cavalier either. The thing with Hickson for me is that I know he struggled with consistency and focus throughout the 82-game run through the league last year, and I do understand that had to be frustrating up and down the Cavs organization. It was frustrating enough to watch for fans. But when he was good, he was really, really good. I was standing right in front of his locker last season when he said that he gets more focused and excited to play when the big name stars come into town. Those were his best games last season, against Amar’e Stoudemire, against Blake Griffin, and so on down the line. It was funny when he said it too because it was just such an honest answer. Everybody who watched the kid play last season pretty much knew that to be true, and JJ flat-out admitted it was. The flip-side of that is obviously the frustrating part, and at times I can understand why Cavs fans and probably the coaching staff as well may have wanted to bounce a basketball off his head and beg him to play that way every night. If he brought the same fire and intensity he brought to those games against the NBA’s elite, into a match-up with Average Joe NBA PF, he’d be an All Star. If he doesn’t though, he’ll be a guy who plays a decade more in the league and never averages more points and rebounds in a given season then the numbers he posted this past one.
Why I have a tough time seeing him go, however, is because I do think that light was coming on for Hickson as last year winded down. He was a McDonald’s All American the same year that Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith were – two guys who will play as Rookies whenever the NBA does resume next season. I think in two years – when Hickson is 24 – you will really be able to judge what type of player he is and will be for the next half decade of his career. Right now though, it’s a pretty tough call in my opinion. There’s an argument to be made that he had his chance last season, but if we are judging everybody off “last season” than Byron Scott should be fired. He shouldn’t be obviously, but Chris Grant felt like he had to make a move now with respect to JJ. Maybe he forced his own hand by drafting Tristan Thompson, maybe his hand was forced because there was nobody else really to draft. Maybe JJ Hickson ran out of chances with Byron Scott and company too, who knows. I’d have just liked to see Hickson get one more look at it here in Cleveland, and I hope he becomes that player he’s shown that he can be next season in Sacramento. JJ Hickson was cool guy to have around Cleveland while he was here, and he’ll always be a guy I pull for. Here’s hoping he can play the Kings out of the lottery next season, I see no reason why this trade can’t work out for both teams.
So best of luck to you JJ, and thanks for your time, sir. We’ll keep an eye on you from Cleveland for the rest of your run through the league, stay focused, do your thing.
Part Two with Sandy Dover at SLAM Online: I referenced part one of my collaboration with Sandy D over at SLAM Online last week, and as a heads up Part Two on all things Cleveland Cavaliers went up this past Friday. Stop by Sandy’s Blog at SLAM to check it out right here, and be sure to check back with my guy often. As always, I appreciate the Sandman having me, thanks again sir!