After reportedly being shopped at the NBA trade deadline, J.J. Hickson will remain a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. The strong power forward is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Despite the risk of Hickson leaving during the offseason and the team getting nothing in return, the Blazers made the right decision by keeping Hickson on the roster.
According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, Portland made Hickson available at the deadline in hopes of landing a high draft pick:
Portland asking for a 1st round pick for JJ Hickson and finding no takers so far.— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) February 21, 2013
The Blazers were smart to shop Hickson for a pick in the first place, but even smarter to not cave in to low demand. Had they landed a first-round pick, they would have gotten good value. Getting a second-round pick in return wouldn't have made it worth giving up on the possibility of re-signing Hickson.
While the Blazers may not be a playoff team this season, they have a strong core to build around with Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. They need to start figuring out which players on their roster complement that group.
Hickson may or may not be one of those players depending on his value in the offseason.
His consistent play this season has highlighted him as a possible key piece of the Blazers' future. It's also likely raised his value in terms of what type of contract he will get this summer. His ability to dominate the boards and provide spacing has been a big part of the team's recent offensive success.
Here are Hickson's highlights from the Blazers' loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night:
In that game, much like he's done all year, Hickson scored in a variety of ways. He did so by taking advantage of defenders playing a few feet off and knocking down mid-range shots, making some beautiful cuts for easy baskets and registering multiple putbacks.
At the 26-second mark in the video, Hickson effectively gave Sasha Pavlovic space to drive on the baseline and finish after receiving the dish. In the next clip, he hit a long jumper to force his defender out.
Those plays stretch the defense and give the Blazers some point production outside of Lillard, Aldridge and Batum.
While Hickson definitely adds to the team, the big question will be value. The Blazers have a large sum of money committed to Aldridge, Batum and Wesley Matthews as well as their other role players. They may need to save money by letting Hickson walk this summer in order to strengthen their bench.
By keeping Hickson through at least the end of the year, the Blazers will have an opportunity to better fully weigh their options.
One way of doing this is to get a better look at Meyers Leonard before the season ends. The rookie center is struggling to adjust to the size and speed at this level. He's looked outmatched physically and in terms of athleticism.
If Leonard can start to display some of the rebounding and blocking skills he showcased in college, he would make it much easier for the Blazers to let go of Hickson. They would likely need to bring in another big man to play center, but could save money by signing a cheaper player.
The Blazers made the right choice by keeping Hickson. The move allows them to evaluate their roster and keep different options open heading into the offseason.