The Portland Trail Blazers face a tough decision in the next week and a half whether or not to trade forward/center J.J. Hickson. The emerging big man has played great for the Blazers this season and they should hold on to the tradable asset.
Hickson is having the best all-around season of his five-year NBA career. He's averaging 12.9 points and a career-high 10.6 rebounds per game while shooting 56.3 percent from the field. In addition to filling the stat sheet, Hickson has shown an edge to his game with his willingness to do it all for the Blazers.
His strong play has garnered interest from around the league. According to CSNNW.com's Chris Hayes:
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.
Hayes mentions the issues with a trade involving Hickson because of his Bird Rights giving him the power to veto any trade. Therefore, the Blazers would need to find the ideal situation for Hickson and their team before moving forward with a trade.
With Hickson having the final say in any trade, it's possible the Blazers wouldn't be able to move Hickson at all. He seems to fit in extremely well with the current group that the Blazers have and seems to love playing in Portland. The team has a young, talented core, but needs to add additional pieces to get to the next level.
It's pretty clear from this interview just how much he enjoys playing for the Blazers:
Hickson's breakout season has provided the team with a great asset to trade high and likely get a good return. His success this season has also contributed to the larger success of the Blazers, which makes trading Hickson a more difficult choice.
The Blazers expected to be in rebuilding mode this season, but behind Hickson's strong play and rookie sensation Damian Lillard, they're fighting for a playoff spot. They are currently two games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Lillard has adjusted incredibly well to the NBA and looks primed to become a superstar. His development seems to have shaved off years in the Blazers' rebuilding plans. Instead of looking at winning in a number of years, the Blazers could win with group they have right now.
In addition to being a "do-it-all" player, Hickson has become a fan favorite in Portland. While he does all the not-so-pretty things like rebounding, boxing out and hustling for loose balls, he delivers highlights like this:
Notice in the clip that he runs the lane incredibly well. Once Lillard secures the ball, Hickson swings his head to check where Nicolas Batum is running. He looks back to see where Lillard is going and trails behind within space. Then, of course, finishes with a monster dunk.
In addition to playing well with Lillard and producing nicely for the Blazers, Hickson has been incredibly consistent over the season. Of the 50 games Hickson has played this season, he's scored more than 10 points in 37 of them and collected more than 10 rebounds in 32 games. He's collected 27 double-doubles on the year.
While he's improved immensely and fits well with the team in Portland, the team's offseason plans will definitely be impacted by how they handle Hickson's situation. The Blazers should have a decent amount of cap space (in the neighborhood of $12 million) heading to the offseason. Signing Hickson to a long-term deal would take a good amount of that money.
Hickson can be a big part of the Blazers' future, which looks bright behind Lillard. He needs to prove he can be consistently produce for the Blazers. If he can do that and keeps racking up double-doubles, Hickson should be signed long-term by the Blazers.