Season In Review: JJ Hickson
By caseyholdahl Posted in: j.j.hickson
STAT LINE OF THE SEASON
25 points (9 of 13), 15 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assists versus Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 29
"Happy, but not satisfied."
That's how JJ Hickson described his feelings regarding his performance during the 2012-13 season. Coincidentally enough, it's also how the team viewed their situation at the center position this season. While general manager Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts were happy with Hickson's double-doubles, happy that he started all but two games this season, happy that he shot a team-best 56 percent from the field, they made it very clear that, while the Trail Blazers were happy with what Hickson gave them this season, that they were in no way satisfied with the situation at starting center.
"We had a tough time protecting the rim, we had a tough time giving up points in the paint and that’s not an indictment of JJ Hickson," said Neil Olshey. 'We asked a 6-9 power forward to play center every night in a league against the Marc Gasols and Roy Hibberts and Dwight Howards, etcetera."
Basically, JJ Hickson did the best that he could with the job he was given, and in the process, he revived his career after being waived by the Kings toward the end of the 2011-12 season. An unrestricted free agent, Hickson will hit the open market this summer having averaged a double-double while playing out of position, something he was reportedly loathe to do during his first three season with the Cavaliers.
But in Portland, Hickson never pouted about being mismatched every night, didn't complain about not having plays called for him. He just showed up every night and tried to do his absolute best, something he says he learned from his teammates this season.
"The great players in this league are consistent," said Hickson. "Watching LA, watching Dame, watching guys like Wes play hard every single night and do what they're known for every single night, I think that's what makes players special in this league. And I think I took a step closer this season at becoming that much better by being consistent."
The numbers back up Hickson's contention. He lead the Trail Blazers in rebounding 45 times, shot 50.0 percent or better from the field in 25-straight games and logged 40 double-doubles, including nine consecutive double-doubled in December. All of this while being Portland's fourth option offensively, at best.
Unfortunately, Hickson's was also consistently overmatched on defense. Opposing teams scored 1.5 fewer points per 100 possessions when Hickson was off the court, meaning opposing teams scored slightly easier when JJ was playing. There's some statistical "noise" when it comes to on/off court statistics, but by comparison, opposing teams scored 3.3 MORE points per 100 possessions when LaMarcus Aldridge was off the court.
There's plenty of blame to go around when it comes to Portland's poor defense, which finished the season 29th in both opponent field goal percentage and opponent field goals made, but when you're the starting center on a team that gave up an NBA-worst 47.4 points in the paint per game, fingers point in your direction first, providing Hickson with a bit of extra motivation going into the offseason.
"I'm going to work ten times as hard as I did last summer to get better," said Hickson. "I really believe that I have a long way to go. I haven't reached the ceiling by any means. With me thinking like that, I can't help but to get better and work harder to see what that brings me. I guess we'll see next year."