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On Trades and Legacies

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There is an NBA player right now who will be available for trade this offseason. For the purpose of the exercise, please accept that I know for a fact he will be available this offseason. He is a young power forward, early 20s, and is putting up some fantastic numbers.

Last season he put up over 13 points and 8 board per game. Over 17 and 11 per 36 minutes. This season, he's putting up about 14 points and 6 rebounds per game, 18 and 8 per 36 minutes. He's boasting a .599 TS%, up from .503 last season. His PER has jumped from 15.6 last season to 20.8 this season.

What would you give up to get this player?

I'm sure some of you have probably guessed by now that I'm describing J.J. Hickson. For those of you who haven't, I was describing J.J. Hickson. For this seasons numbers, those are strictly the games he's played in Portland, excluding his time in Sacramento. I bring this information up for several reasons, but I assure you that I have no intention of rubbing salt in still-fresh wounds.

The trade for Hickson is easily assessed as a terrible trade for the Kings. There is no arguing that the trade failed to improve the team, and losing a future draft pick is going to hurt the team in the future. The trade failed. But the trade for Hickson is also being touted as a prime example of Geoff Petrie's failure to make good trades.

It's been pointed out already that many of us were in favor of the trade when it happened, or at the very least we were cautiously optimistic. We weren't thrilled that a pick was included in the deal, but we appreciated the protections on the pick. And if you strip away the name involved, and if you strip away the failure that we witnessed, the player I described above sounds like a steal in return for an underachieving wing player and protected draft pick. If that deal was available again, with another player with similar production, we'd think Petrie a fool not to pursue that opportunity.

Most of this was already discussed and argued when Hickson was waived by the Kings. I bring this up again because a new trend has emerged. Hickson's resurgence in Portland is now being used as further evidence of Petrie's failure as a GM. "We couldn't even get a second round pick for that guy?" "Why would Petrie just waive such a talented player?" These are questions I've seen on Twitter and in our discussion threads here at Sactown Royalty. There's a problem with these arguments.

Hickson's Portland numbers are definitely Small Sample Size Institute approved. He's been in Portland for all of seven games. Pointing to a seven game surge in production proves nothing. It is worth noting that last night Hickson saw 27 minutes of action, and produced all of 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 turnovers. That's the Hickson we came to know and loathe in Sacramento.

There was never a question of whether or not Hickson has talent. There were always questions around whether he had a feel for the game, whether he put forth the necessary effort, and whether he would ever capitalize on that talent. Seven games in Portland do not offset the lack of awareness and the lack of consistent effort we saw over 35 games in Sacramento.

As for what Petrie could get in return, that's been covered elsewhere but I'll address it briefly. If Petrie could have gotten a second round pick for Hickson, the Kings would have an additional second round pick right now. Waiving Hickson sends a pretty clear message that the Kings were getting rid of Hickson, not that Petrie simply didn't like what was being offered. Nothing was being offered.

We can question why Hickson didn't work out, but we might never really know. We can speculate that the system was a bad fit for him. We can speculate that Hickson simply didn't want to be here and never gave a crap. It's probably a combination of those two factors, plus one or two others of which we're unaware.

Hickson might someday get his head on straight and find his potential, but it wasn't happening in Sacramento. He may continue to excel in Portland, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Perhaps, like Terrence Williams, Hickson will need to be waived a few times before he figures out what it takes to succeed in the NBA. Personally, I'm glad the Kings removed his influence from the locker room, and I'm glad the Kings were able to bring Williams in to fill the open roster spot.

The Hickson trade was a failure. Not in concept, but in execution. If we're reviewing the record of Geoff Petrie, there are plenty of other moves that were worse, both in concept and in execution. We don't need to cling to Hickson to make arguments against Petrie.

And with that, I hope to never write about J.J. Hickson again.