It’s no secret, at this point, that Portland’s double-double machine, J.J. Hickson, will probably be hanging up the red and black to explore free agency when the time comes. As much as he has done for the Blazers, this is good for both of them. J.J. has earned a larger payday than Portland can pony up if they hope to improve this summer, and the Blazers need a bigger center that can match up well on defense. Besides, I try not to assign players value based on contract years, and Portland has only ever locked him down for a season at a time. You never quite know if they’re playing for a paycheck to coast on.
So who ends up with J.J. when he dips his toes in the FA pool?
Atlanta Hawks: 40% chance.
Josh Smith hasn’t been happy in Atlanta for a while now. The Hawks failed to trade him at the deadline and will likely be forced to watch as their franchise player looks elsewhere for a winning team. Fortunately for Atlanta, this would leave them with the kind of cap space every rebuilding franchise dreams about. They don’t have the geographical or market draw that teams like L.A., Miami, and New York have, so why not expand their talent base around Al Horford instead of underdogging after a big fish? J.J. grew up in the Atlanta area and would surely be a valuable addition to the Hawks, playing his natural position (PF). Atlanta would even have some change left over to shore up the small forward position and play good team basketball. Smith’s eventual departure could be as good for Atlanta as Rudy Gay’s departure was for Memphis if the Hawks capitalize on opportunity.
Phoenix Suns: 30% chance.
Who can resist that sunshine? Ok, I’m only half joking. Aside from being the climatic envy of the NBA, Phoenix could be a good home for Hickson from a team standpoint. It really depends whether J.J. would prefer to be supporting cast for a contender or stand out as a star for a hurting squad. The depleted Suns have enough money to buy 3 or 4 J.J. Hicksons this offseason. I could be entirely off-base, but Hickson has always struck me as the type to value a big role with a big contract over the game itself. Again, just a hunch. If Phoenix is willing to risk picking up a possible coaster it might pay off big for both parties. Please just let them land a small forward with the rest of their resources. I hear Josh Smith is looking around.
New York Knicks: 20% chance.
They have the cap space, they have the need, and they have the biggest stage in the NBA. The Knicks are an old team all around, but especially in the frontcourt. They’ve battled injuries all year between Marcus Camby (39), Rasheed Wallace (38), and Kurt Thomas (40), not to mention their younger players. What New York needs is a consistent, healthy big man that can help Tyson Chandler clean the glass. The Knicks may be 1st in the Atlantic this year, but they are 27th in rebounding overall. Picture Melo back at small forward with J.J. opening for Stoudemire. That’s just filthy on paper. The Knicks can’t afford another all star, nor do they need one, and Hickson is already familiar with the bloated earthworm that is Raymond Felton. It’s a reasonable fit.
Portland Trail Blazers: 10% chance.
Doubtful is an understatement for the city of Roses, but I’ve included them because free agents have a tendency to stay where they are comfortable. J.J. has had undeniably more success in Portland than he has had anywhere else in his career; however, he would have to turn down much more lucrative offers if he wants to stay. General manager, Neil Olshey is hunting for depth on a limited budget. Hickson doesn’t fit Portland’s goals in the long term, so he would be in for a reduced role and reduced pay if he wanted to stick around. That is, if the Blazers will even have him. He’s become quite the fan favorite, but the fans don’t make the decision. That’s up to J.J.