Denver Nuggets PFs JJ Hickson and Kenneth Faried will battle for the starting spot. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Through four preseason games, new Denver Nuggets forward JJ Hickson leads the team in scoring averaging 11.25 points.
The Nuggets snagged the biggest steal of the 2013 NBA free agency when they signed Hickson to a 3-year $15 million contract on July 7.
Hickson averaged 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds in 29 min for the Portland Trailblazers in 2012-13. On the Trailblazers, Hickson played a majority of his minutes at the center, but he’s more suited to play the power forward. The six-foot-nine big-man from the University of North Carolina has freakish athletic ability, and can put up big numbers.
Against the Spurs, on Monday, Hickson recorded 15 points, 5 rebounds and two steals in his Pepsi Center Debut.
Last season, Hickson recorded the 7th most double-doubles in the league. He totaled 40 in 80 apperances.
This offseason, Hickson has battled with Kenneth Faried for the starting 4-spot. Faried started the first two games for the Nuggets, but was demoted to the bench against the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday and Tuesday.
Faried’s days in Denver could be numbered. Last season, the proclaimed “Manimal” averaged 11.5 points and 9.2 in 28.1 min. Hickson and Faried nearly put up identical numbers in 2012-13. However, Faried finished with 31 double-doubles–compared to Hickson’s 40.
The “Manimal” has one year left on his rookie contract guaranteeing him $1.3 million this season. In 2014, the Nuggets have the option of re-signing him at $2.2 mill. The team will need to decide if they want Faried or Hickon to be 4-man of the organization by that time.
In coach Brian Shaw’s triangle offense, Hickson has looked very comfortable thus far. Hickson has great ball handling in the post and can kick it out to the guards when needed. He can also hit the 15 foot jumper when he’s in one-on-one situations. Against the Spurs, Hickson and Nate Robinson ran the pick-and-roll and fastbreak offense very well.
The biggest downside to Hickson is that he can be a defensive liability. While he grabs plenty of boards, Hickson isn’t the greatest defender in the post. Besides that, there aren’t many faults to his game.
Love it–or hate it–Hickson should play on the Nuggets for the next three seasons. As the season progresses, watch the position battle between Hickson and Faried. If Hickson wins the minutes, we could see Faried traded by Christmas.
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