Denver Nuggets: The Good and Bad of Signing J.J. Hickson

Andy HuSenior Writer IIJuly 8, 2013

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  J.J. Hickson #21 of the Portland Trail Blazers takes a shot against Bernard James #5 of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on February 6, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

According to, the Denver Nuggets have recently reached a deal with center J.J. Hickson, who had a breakout season last year as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Snatching Hickson, who averaged 12.7 PPG and 10.4 RPG on 56.2 percent shooting in just 29 minutes per game last season (per Basketball Reference), for only a three-year deal worth $15 million seems like a robbery. Hickson probably could've made much more money if he signed elsewhere—a big man who averages a double-double is worth well over $5 million a year.

Although the signing seems like a steal for the Nuggets, it doesn't necessarily help them dramatically or make them better than last season.

They still needed to fill a void this offseason at the wing positions, and Hickson isn't the answer for that.



Good: Great Value, Good Finisher at the Rim, Great Rebounder


A few days ago, the San Antonio Spurs re-signed starting center Tiago Splitter to a four-year $36 million contract (via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports). That's $9 million a year for a center who averaged 10.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG in 24.7 MPG last season.

Big men in this league are paid much more than point guards or a wing players, but when you compare Hickson's contract to Splitter's, it makes the Spurs look ridiculous.

Hickson also boasts a higher PER and per-36 minute point and rebound averages, while also retaining a slightly higher field goal percentage.

Numbers-wise, Hickson is more productive and efficient.

That doesn't tell the whole story though.

Hickson is primarily a rebounding and energy guy who can be very productive in short bursts of playing time. Splitter wields a legitimate back to the basket game, and is a much more capable paint defender than Hickson.

Either way, paying Hickson just $5 million per year is a great bargain for a team looking to add another inside presence.

According to Hoop Data, Hickson converted on 68.2 percent of his attempts at the rim last season with the Trail Blazers, which is pretty remarkable for a player who was considered too short to play the center position at 6'9". 

He will make a great pick-and-roll partner for Ty Lawson, and his athletic finishing abilities in the paint is nothing to scoff at.

Hickson is only 24 years old and he has a lot of room to grow. Although Denver will be his fourth team in four years, his ceiling is still remarkably high because of his quickness and athleticism—two characteristics that are very rare for a traditional center.



Bad: Duplicate Talent, Limited Offensive Skills


Hickson is essentially the same type of player as Kenneth Faried. His relentless hustle and energy on the glass is similar to the same kind of skills that Faried possesses.

Sometimes it's good to have too much of one thing, but that might not be the case in this situation.

Faried and Hickson are both hard-working, energy players who bring excitement and tenacious rebounding to their team. Then, there's JaVale McGee, who is basically a taller, longer and more athletic version of either of the two.

Faried, Hickson and McGee will likely play most of the minutes in the frontcourt, but none of them are good at creating their own shot, nor are they fantastic defenders.

The Nuggets have multiple perimeter guys who are adept at creating their own shot and making a play (Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler), so having a stretch-4 to help open up the floor would help greatly.

Unfortunately, neither Hickson, Faried nor McGee can shoot the ball outside of five feet from the rim.

Furthermore, the Nuggets were already second in the entire league in total rebounds per game last season, averaging an absurd 54.3 rebounds in every contest (per Team Rankings). Adding Hickson to the roster just seems like overkill at this point.

It may not be all bad, though. If Faried needs a breather or gets into foul trouble early in the game, then Hickson can come in off the bench and provide the same amount of energy and rebounding to help the Nuggets keep momentum.

On offense, Hickson's 50.9 percent career field goal percentage doesn't accurately reflect his limited skills. His post-game is unpolished and his outside jumper is very inconsistent, which is why he only took approximately two shots per game from outside of nine feet last season.

Hickson still has a high ceiling and a lot of room to develop, but right now he's nothing more than an energy player who possesses similar skills as Faried.