The NBA Trade Deadline is creeping up on us, February 21 to be exact. The biggest concern for the Portland Trail Blazers is what they should to do with center J.J. Hickson. Let’s take a further look into their options.
J.J. Hickson has his fans and he also has his critics. Me? I have bounced back and forth over the season. If I were general manager Neil Olshey, there is no doubt in my mind that I would lose sleep on deciding what to do with this guy. I would be tossing and turning at night, counting his double-doubles until I fall asleep. Then, as soon as I am about to fall asleep, it would come to me – one of those often moments on defense where he is completely lost – and I’m right back to where I started.
I have seen enough. I have made up my mind. I am opposed to the idea of the Blazers keeping Hickson long-term. I do, however, think that keeping him around the rest of the season is in the team’s best interest. Unless they can land this final trade proposal I thought of.
Those trades I made in the roundtable column didn’t make too much sense. So let me redeem myself with one that makes sense for both sides. Hickson is a talented player, offensively. We need help on defense and bench scoring. The starting line-up is already filled with offensive playmakers. Hickson or Matthews won’t be coming off the bench – Meyers Leonard is just too far away to start, so is and guard. So what can they do?
I recently heard that the Milwaukee Bucks are looking to deal Samuel Dalembert by the trade deadline. The Blazers should make an offer.
With Dalembert, the Blazers wouldn’t lose anything on the boards. In games while playing 20+ minutes, Dalembert has posted a double-double in each of the last 5. His length and size creates much more problems defensively and could cut down on the points allowed in the paint. And it’s not like he can’t score, those double-doubles he recorded were points and rebounds. He also gives Meyers Leonard a person to model himself off of on the defensive end. At times Leonard looks just as lost as Hickson does on the court, he needs someone to show him a few things, Hickson obviously won’t help the cause.
Hickson works for Bucks as well. He can give them an offensive threat down low, something they lack right now. They could move him back to his original position of power forward or start him at center as center Larry Sanders works through some back issues. The Bucks currently hold the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Hickson may be the piece to solidify their playoff spot.
In this trade, it would be ideal to get someone that can produce off the bench. Looking at the Bucks roster, I think Mike Dunleavy is the best option. He has shot extremely well from beyond the arc this season (43.8%) and he has consistently scored 12 points a game throughout his career. That nearly matches the Blazers bench this season.
In order to make this deal work the Blazers would have to give up two more players to match contracts. I would be willing to give up Luke Babbitt – seeing as how he hardly plays anyway. Nolan Smith or Ronnie Price would be the other. The Bucks may also deal their backup point guard Beno Udrih to the Orlando Magic if it can land them J.J. Reddick. By the Blazers giving them another backup point guard, as horrible as they are, it could give them the incentive to deal Udrih, who has an expiring contract worth a little over $7 million.
If Olshey decides to hold onto Hickson for the rest of the season I think he will cost too much to re-sign. Hickson has played well under his role with this team. At times, he has put together some monster games. It’s the fact that he is too undersized to play the center position that steers me away from re-signing him. It also doesn’t help that he can’t play a lick of defense. I wouldn’t pay him anything over $8 million a year because I wouldn’t want him as anything but a sixth man on this team.
A Dalembert and Dunleavy for Hickson, Babbitt, and Price trade makes the team better right now. It also doesn’t change our flexibility for the offseason as both players are on expiring contracts. Price would actually add to the flexibility since he will still have another year on his contract for next season. If it doesn’t work out, no harm is done.
It’s either playoff or tank for this Blazers team. They need to figure out which. They can’t make playoffs without some help. You can see it in the player’s eyes, the expression on their faces – they are not ready to let this season slip away. These guys have too much heart to do that. So, Olshey, let’s get these guys some help and win some games.