Though the Sacramento Kings had soured on Omri Casspi and feel that the roster has enough young players, the trade for J.J. Hickson isn't one to take lightly. Casspi remains a legit prospect, and Geoff Petrie trades draft picks (in the first round, anyway) only begrudgingly. Add those two realities together, and Petrie surely thinks highly of Hickson.
Most would ask, "Why?" He was pretty dreadful offensively last season, as his role increased dramatically with the absence of LeBron James. As a rookie in 2008-09, he shot about 10 field goals per 36 minutes as a low-minutes reserve, and shot 51 percent from the floor. In 2009-10 as a persistent starter next to LeBron, he averaged 11 field goals per 36 minutes and increased his shooting percentage to 55 percent.
In the absence of LeBron last season, he took 15 shots per 36 minutes, but hit just 46 percent of them. As he is not a three-point shooter and his free throw shooting percentage is below 70 percent, that means his efficiency was not good. Among the 149 players who averaged 10 points a game or more last season, Hickson's .458 eFG is the 17th-worst, and his .503 TS% was 18th-worst.
Fun fact: Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and John Salmons also find themselves in the bottom 25 in both categories. Four of the Kings' biggest offensive weapons next year will have finished among the least efficient scorers in the game. Sweet!
That's just the issue here with Hickson. He's not a defender, and while he can rebound, his expected contribution likely revolves around offense. But we saw a season ago that he does not seem fit for high usage. Can that be reversed? Was that the unnatural season for him, where he was forced to take a larger offensive load than felt comfortable? Or is this J.J. Hickson, a guy who will be looking for his shot enough to depress his efficiency.
A popular complaint from fans in 2009-10 was that Evans would show his point guard skills more if he just had some big men to deliver the ball to near the rim, or shooters to the deliver the ball to in the corners. Petrie began to add those pieces last season (Cousins, Marcus Thornton), but Evans' injury ruined it all. Well guess what: Evans will have another of each in Hickson and Jimmer Fredette. But to allow Evans to explore his giving side, those players largely need to let him create.
That means that Hickson is going to have to play like he did when LeBron was around. If he does, he could be a great little pick-up for the Kings, one of the better off-ball big men scorers around ... a Carl Landry who can rebound. (On the Carl Landry tip, Hickson does not have a smooth jumper; he hit just 33-108 from 10-15 feet and 73-223 from 15-23 feet, per Hoopdata.)
But if Hickson repeats his 2010-11 performance on offense, the Kings will only have added another player to the game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos playing out on the offensive end.