With the February 21st trade deadline a little over a month away, the Portland Trail Blazers need to make a decision as it pertains to their 24-year old starting center.
J.J Hickson is currently having one of the best seasons of his young career, averaging a double-double of 12.2 points and 11.0 rebounds (career-high). He’s also shooting a solid 54.4% from the field.
On March 21st of last year, Hickson was claimed off waivers by Portland and signed to a 1-year, $4 million dollar deal. During the waiver process, league arbitrator Kenneth Dam ruled that J.J had retained his “Bird Rights”.
With his rights, Hickson can veto any trade thrown his way. If he were to accept a deal, he would waive all of his rights, which would otherwise allow him to re-sign with the Trail Blazers for a more lucrative financial deal of upwards to five years.
Because of these stipulations surrounding J.J, interested teams around the league have been making direct contact with his agent Andy Miller, rather than team General Manager Neil Olshey.
According to a report by CSNNW.com, Hickson believes his strong play and hard work is paying off in the form of becoming a hot-topic on the trade market.
“I’m trying to make this playoff run if I’m here after the trade deadline. Obviously, I’ll be happy either way because I can veto any trade.”
“I’m blessed to be in this the position and to know that I’m kind of a hot commodity right now,” Hickson said. “But all I can do is control what I can control on the basketball court and keep getting better.”
“If you look at it, I’m on a one-year, $4 million dollar deal. My qualifying offer was for $3.5 million,” Hickson said. “If they would have picked up my qualifying offer, I would be making less money. It wasn’t a disappointment, it was a wake up call for me to get better and for me to lock in and focus on being consistent. That’s something I took upon myself to do and I think it’s the first time throughout my career that I’ve been consistent.”
From a team standpoint, it may be wise to move Hickson while his value is at its peak. Of course, he would have to be on board with the deal as well.
With a record of 20-19, the Trail Blazers sit ninth in the Western Conference and just half a game out of the final playoff spot.
If the team fails to qualify for the playoffs, they will (likely) retain their 2013 draft pick which is top-12 protected. It is currently owed to the Charlotte Bobcats as part of the Gerald Wallace trade.
Portland also has a tremendous amount of cap space heading into the offseason. Trading away Hickson before the deadline would help the team avoid having to offer him more money over the summer, especially considering the numbers he’s currently putting up.