I don’t need to get into why the Portland Trailblazers might be unlucky. Or maybe snake bitten. Or maybe even – gasp! – cursed.
I don’t need to mention the long line of giants with legs more fragile than the sexy lamp in “A Christmas Story.” I don’t need to mention the Draft Day Disaster where they went with a sure thing no one questioned at the time and ended up missing out on the greatest player of all time. And I don’t need to mention the crushing injury to a guy whose last name is the acronym to a certain award given to rookies, which all but crushed any chances of building something out of those early LaMarcus Aldridge teams in the late ’00s.
But in casting away one J.J. Hickson, I believe Portland has made its own bad luck heading into the 2013-2014 NBA season.
And, unfortunately for fantasy owners, Rip City’s move will have a “Rip”le effect on J.J.’s value.
Hickson was like Jay Bilas’ wet dream while he was on Cleveland – Hickson screamed “potential” and “upside” like they were his middle names (which woulda made him J.J.P.U. Hickson).
But that was on a per minute basis, and on the court he looked raw and kinda like a rich man’s Tim Thomas. Any Milwaukee Bucks or Philadelphia 76ers fan can tell you how that prospect is about as appealing as camping out next to a nuclear reactor. Not the worst thing in the world, just wouldn’t want to do it again. Ever.
Fantasy dorks know that Hickson’s Tim Thomas destiny was almost fulfilled when the Cavs shipped him off to Sacramento, aka NBA’s current Death Valley. Thankfully, the Kings stupidly saved Hickson by waiving him (!!!), which allowed him to sign with the Blazers and approach that future upside that was promised in the past and became present. In other words, fulfilling the prophesy laid out by Colonel Sandurz in “Spaceballs,” the “then” became “now.” I think.
Anyway, after languishing on the SacTown bench all year, Hickson arrived in Portland and finished out the season by posting 15.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg and just under one block per game, all while shooting 54 percent.
Last year, he proved that wasn’t an anomaly and turned into one of my favorite fantasy players – a bonafide Board-n-Blocker – bringing in a double-double of 12.7 ppg and 10.4 rpg in 80 games. He was also usually good for a steal and a block. Add the rebounds and the block and you have yourself a Nifty Nevitt my friend. And that was in just 29 minutes of action!
So on the surface you would think his defection to Denver would be a good thing, you’re thinking, hey, Denver whiffed on the Iguodala thing, here’s a guy they see as about to kick it up a notch, let’s put our faith in J.J. You’re also thinking, hey Pete Nice, why are you writing like Hubie Brown talks. Stop it.
But NO! Denver’s frontcourt is stacked. Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, the recently acquired Darrell Authur and even free-agent center Timofey Mozgov (a free agent who may or may not return) could be in the mix. At best, we’re looking at Hickson as a starter but sharing way too many minutes. At worst he’s a sixth man who gets his minutes capped and his progress stifled. No way he’s averaging a double-double as a sixth man.
So heading into a fantasy draft, which is still light years away and who knows what could happen between now and then, I would resist the temptation to rekindle your relationship with last year’s fantasy crush (I’m talking to myself now). Lay back, let the market set the price for Hickson, see where he is on Denver’s depth chart, see if he’s being undervalued, then try and take advantage of the undervalue and get some value later on.
Nay, all of this could have been avoided if the Blazers had realized the gem they stumbled on by plucking Hickson off waivers. Instead, they thought it’d be smarter to shuffle the deck and bring in still-not-ripe Thomas Robinson, solid-but-soft Robin Lopez and Dorell Wright, who can shoot the three but seems to always have that listless video game expression when he’s on the court, therefore making him someone I don’t really want on my team.
So the Portland curse threatens to strike again. Rip City ripped one – let’s just hope the smell doesn’t travel Mile High.