Since joining the Cavs’ starting lineup two weeks into the season, Hickson has experienced the normal ups and downs of any young player adjusting to the pro game. As much as anything, Hickson's promotion enabled Anderson Varejao to return to his more comfortable role of coming off the bench. Indeed, Varejao plays the bulk of the minutes at the power forward position.
However, the Cavaliers believe the youthful Hickson has a tremendous upside. Had he remained at N.C. State, he would be in just his junior year with the Wolfpack. At 6'9" and 240 pounds, the 21-year-old already has excellent size, and will likely continue to fill out over the next few years.
With players like Antawn Jamison, Amar’e Stoudemire and Troy Murphy rumored to be available, it’s understandable that the Cavaliers would at least be making some calls to see what’s possible. The common assumption is that a deal for any of those players would include Hickson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas leaving the Cavs.
The reasoning? Ilgauskas would receive a buyout and return to the Cavaliers, and Hickson would remain with the team he’s traded to as a potential anchor for years to come.
The more you watch Cleveland, however, the less likely such a scenario seems to be. The Cavaliers, sporting a league-best 40-11 record, are riding a 10-game winning streak. They continue to raise eyebrows by doing it without guards Mo Williams and Delonte West.
Hickson, meanwhile, has had his share of impressive moments. None have compared, however, to two highlight-reel plays he turned in against Dwayne Wade Thursday night in the Cavs’ dominating 102-86 win over the Miami Heat.
Click on the following links to see for yourself.
The Dunk (click here) : The first highlight came on a breakaway dunk in the first half. Hickson retrieved a loose ball near halfcourt and raced down to the other end, where Wade was lurking. As Wade went up for the block, Hickson threw down a two-hand slam that brought the Quicken Loans Arena crowd to its feet.
The Block (click here) : To add insult to injury, Hickson got the upper hand again in the second half, rejecting Wade as the Heat star attempted to return the favor.
It’s rare to see anyone steal the spotlight from Wade like that, let alone a second-year player who is still earning his stripes.
As an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, however, Hickson seems to turn his game up a notch when the Cavaliers are on national TV, as they were Thursday night.
It's as if Hickson was letting the doubters know that he not only belongs in the Cavs lineup, but that Cleveland is where he wants to stay.
If Thursday night’s performance is any indicator, he may have nothing more to worry about.