H: 6' 9"|
W: 242 lbs
(28 Years Old)
|RSCI: 10||Agent: Andy Miller |
High School: Wheeler
Hometown: Marietta, GA
Drafted: Pick 19 in 2008 by Cavaliers
Best Case: Brandon Bass
Worst Case: Sharrod Ford
Hickson was one of the top players at the Las Vegas Summer League, and turned in one of the most significant performances in terms of what we can expect from him next season. He finished as the 6th ranked scorer and produced at roughly the same rate he did at this event in 2008, while leading the Cavaliers to a 3-1 record. Though Hickson still has a number of areas to improve upon, he showed a significantly more versatile skill set than what we saw from last season.
Throughout the 2010 regular season, Hickson proved to be a nice compliment to Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James, taking advantage of the easy opportunities at the rim and finishing in the top-25 League-wide in FG%, but showing only a few flashes of one-on-on scoring ability. With James, O'Neal, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas headed elsewhere, Hickson will be called upon to take his game to the next level and become more than a catch-and-finish, complimentary power forward. Based on what we saw in Vegas, it is clear that the North Carolina State product is taking that call to heart, showing improvements in his individual skills and committing himself to the up-tempo style of play Byron Scott will be bring to Northeast Ohio this fall.
From the opening tip of Cleveland's first game, Hickson's intentions were clear; he wanted to showcase his jump shot and continue developing it in a game setting. Over the course of the week, Hickson showed the ability to step out to the perimeter and make shots, a quality his game desperately lacked last season. His touch and confidence are noticeably improved, and the time he's spent in the gym this summer has allowed him to develop a nice shooting rhythm. Though he certainly forced some shots with a hand in his face and needs to improve the consistency of his release point, he made some difficult face-up jumpers from 15-feet, knocked down a few catch and shoot jumpers NCAA three-point range, flashed a one-dribble pull-up, and was one of the few bright-spots for the Cavaliers in an otherwise troubling offseason.
In addition to his jump shot, Hickson displayed an improved floor game, looking more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and appearing a bit more decisive in the post. He has a nice first step for a player his size, and his big frame allows him to use spin moves effectively in the paint. He still has a lot to prove when it comes to creating his own shot and knocking down jumpers on the NBA level, but he's made obvious progress in some areas.
Hickson didn't show much that we didn't already know about him on the defensive end. He's still too eager to leave his feet and is prone to getting beat with double-moves as he tends to over commit when he's beat, but his wingspan, strength, and energy level, help him compensate for some of his mistakes.
On the whole, Hickson made quite an impression with his athletic play in transition and improved scoring arsenal, promising signs for one of Cleveland's best long-term assets. An early candidate for the Most Improved Player award, Hickson's usage should allow him to have a productive season, and he could put up great numbers if he continues to improve and adjusts to Byron Scott's offense quickly.
The rookie power forward had a nice follow up to his tremendous debut. His line for the game is very misleading, as he had essentially no plays called for him and didn’t receive almost any post up opportunities. This was quite a surprise considering how often he was isolated in the post last game. Hickson did a very nice job today taking advantage of his opportunities. He showed a willingness to take on contact and was once again efficient at the rim, finishing most of the good looks he got. The former NC State player showed nice high-low passing ability, something that will be valuable to him in Cleveland due to the glut of other post players they have the fight for position inside. Defensively, Hickson did a nice job on Joey Dorsey, but let him grab a few offensive rebounds. It will take him some time to adapt to boxing out bigger players, but he should be a good rebounder with time and experience. It will be interesting to see how Cleveland utilizes Hickson not only in their next game, but throughout the rest of the week.[Read Full Article]
Considering that he didn’t play in the three on three portion of the workouts in day two, there was really only so much we can say about what we saw here in the shooting drills. His bread and butter will always be the work he does with his back to the basket around the paint, so trying to judge him off his perimeter shooting doesn’t do him a lot of justice. Hickson is not at the same level conditioning wise as his workout partners Joe Alexander and Marreese Speights, but he looked extremely focused and resolute on executing everything he’s been taught by the people here. His length and athleticism are clearly terrific, and he looked very good using the glass to finish around the rim and even stepping out and knocking down shots out to 17 or 18 feet. He has a tendency to fade away excessively and sports an inconsistent release point, but his touch isn’t bad and it seems like he shouldn’t have a problem developing an effective mid-range game if he can clean up his shooting mechanics.
After an extremely hot start to his college career (profiled below), J.J. Hickson and N.C. State cooled off substantially as the season moved on, losing their last seven games in the ACC (a massive disappointment considering the preseason expectations), while getting “just” 12.5 points on 50% shooting from their star freshman in conference games. Teams have figured out how to defend Hickson more effectively as the scouting reports have gotten out, as he’s not the most polished or versatile player you’ll find around.
The majority of Hickson’s game revolves around his ability to play with his back to the basket, despite standing just 6-8 or 6-9. Over 50% of his offense comes on post moves (the rest mostly on cuts to the basket and offensive rebounds), and he’s mostly limited to setting up on the left block and utilizing the 2-3 moves he is extremely effective at, while not showing any real skills facing the basket or finishing with his left hand. Hickson has limited range on his jump-shot (out to about 12 feet or so) and does not appear comfortable at all putting the ball on the floor from the high post, looking out of control and committing offensive fouls when forced to do so. This limits his effectiveness in N.C. State’s half-court sets, as if he’s not lowering his shoulder and going to work with his back to the basket, there really isn’t a whole lot more he can offer at this point.
The things he does do well, though, Hickson is extremely talented at—as evidenced by the terrific 59% he shoots from the field. He’s a very reliable presence cutting to the rim or running the floor in transition, thanks to his superb length, hands, strength, toughness, aggressiveness, and the way he finishes around the rim. He likes to dunk everything he gets his hands on, being extremely quick getting off his feet, and having no problem going right through contact—drawing a good amount of fouls in the process.
Hickson has a great feel for scoring in the post, showing a nice combination of quickness, footwork, strength, and a few very solid moves. His drop-step is already an excellent weapon for him, and his turn-around jump-shot is quickly becoming an effective part of his arsenal. He establishes good, deep position inside, knows how to utilize shot-fakes, and has some nice spin-moves he executes with great quickness.
His problem at the moment is that he doesn’t have much of a left hand, and at times has a tendency to hold the ball excessively and force the issue barreling his way into brick walls, looking a little bit selfish in the process and turning the ball over more than he should. To his credit, he seems to be doing a better job of passing out of double teams than he did earlier in the season, even if his .39 assist to turnover ratio is still nothing to write home about (it was much worse earlier in the year). He’s a player who lives off his instincts more than off any kind of great feel for the game, at times looking out of place in some of N.C. State’s more complex half-court sets.
Defensively, Hickson doesn’t have great size at 6-8 or 6-9, although his terrific wingspan compensates for that to a certain extent. His feet are quick enough to get out and hedge screens on the perimeter, but his general understanding of how to play team defense is not yet developed enough to consider him anything more than an average defender at best. He gives up too much space in the post and is not physical or aggressive enough putting his tools to good use, lacking some intensity and awareness on this end of the floor at this point in his career (which is not unusual for a freshman). He suffers from mental lapses, not boxing out his man, and losing his focus and such, but generally speaking is a very productive rebounder.
Hickson publicly says that he is still undecided whether or not he’ll be declaring for this year’s draft, but persistent rumors we’ve been hearing all season indicate that he will almost certainly put his name in when it’s all said and done. That would probably be a mistake if that’s indeed the case, as he does not look anywhere near ready to see minutes on an NBA team (defensively, or operating as a true power forward should facing the basket), and would greatly benefit from expanding his game through another season in college. His talent will still likely be too great for most teams to pass up on in the first round--even if he’ll have to spend time in the D-League polishing his all-around game--and therefore he’d likely get drafted somewhere in the bottom half of the first round barring bad workouts or off the court red flags that pop up during the draft process.
J.J. Hickson is off to a great start in his freshman season, averaging 18.5 points per game over six games, easily leading his team in the category. He’s also doing it on 73% shooting from the field, though that hasn’t been enough to cement himself a spot in NC State’s starting lineup due to their crowded frontcourt, as Hickson has been shuffled in and out of the lineup, though he’s played over 20 minutes in each of his first six games.
Hickson has a strong, well-built frame, good length, and is a very good athlete for a big man, though not quite an elite athlete. He runs the floor well, is quite mobile and coordinated, and shows a good second bounce on his jump.
On the offensive end, Hickson is showing off his versatility, efficiently scoring posting up or facing up, though he’s kept his game mostly inside 12 feet of the basket in the early going. With his back to the basket, Hickson doesn’t show many advanced post moves at this stage, but he does a good job recognizing what the defense gives him and doesn’t force the issue often. He’s been scoring there on simple but smart moves, or by drawing contact to get to the free-throw line. Hickson, with his strong frame, takes contact very well, and often is able to absorb the blow and still put up a high percentage shot attempt.
Hickson also has a crafty face-up game inside 15 feet, where he can pull up for a smooth jumper or put the ball on the floor for one or two quick dribbles going to the basket. He does a good job using fakes and not selling what he’s going to do, taking what the defense gives him by either pulling up for the jumper or taking a few strides across the lane for a running hook shot. Hickson has dribbled into trouble at times, as he isn’t the greatest ball-handler at this stage, but he isn’t one to force the issue, not being hesitant to quickly pass out of the post for a reset when he doesn’t like what the defense is giving him.
Defensively, Hickson has made his presence felt in the lane, altering and blocking many shots already, either by holding his ground near the basket or rotating out to contest a driving guard. Hickson shows good timing on his shot-blocking, but he really picks his spots with what shots to go after, not always making the effort to block a shot even if he’s in the vicinity and physically capable of getting to the ball. He’s only averaging two fouls per game in 27.3 minutes per game as compared to 2.5 blocked shots, so he definitely could afford to take a few more chances in that regard.
Hickson also has looked formidable in man-to-man defense, getting into a good defensive stance when his man has the ball on the perimeter, though his lateral quickness hasn’t really been tested yet. In terms of rebounding the ball, Hickson does a good job pursuing boards and using his physical attributes, but he could be more consistent in boxing out and bodying up, not always making sure to seal out his man.
Hickson still has a lot to develop, though, as he could certainly get more advanced with his footwork and array of moves in the post, and he would help himself to show more range on his jumper and face-up game. A more aggressive stance towards shot-blocking and a better emphasis on boxing out with his rebounding should also be among his priorities.
All in all, even with some things to work on, Hickson has looked very good in the early going, and if he continues to be this efficient and productive over the course of the season, he will have a strong case to put his name in the draft, where he should be firmly in lottery discussions. It’s a bit too early to pick an accurate NBA comparison for Hickson, as he has a solid base of skills in many facets of the game, and there are many ways his game could go depending on how he improves on that groundwork.
Three McDonald’s practices, the McDonald’s game, two Roundball practices, the Roundball game…Zero bad performances from Hickson. Not only has he extended his game out to 18 feet, but he has become downright automatic from inside the three point line when facing the basket. The way that he has evolved his game since the summer is downright remarkable, as he used to be merely an athlete with nice moves on the low block. Now we are looking at a complete power forward, who has great hands, an NBA body, and can score from anywhere on the floor.
While J.J. is a good athlete, there were more athletic big men in the game whom he would not be able to shoot over the top of. Realizing this, he used a plethora of ball fakes and pivot moves to draw opposing defenders up in the air. The North Carolina State recruit is not the strongest defender at the moment, although he has the makeup of a good defender in the future with the proper coaching. Look for Hickson to make an immediate impact for the Wolfpack next season, even though they already have Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley in the post. YES, he is that good.
[Read Full Article]
DraftExpress: You had a pretty solid performance in the McDonald’s game. Give me a self evaluation of how you felt you played?
Hickson: I think I played real well. I think I showcased my talents and what I can do, as well as what I need help on. I’m trying to get to college and show the world what I can do.
DraftExpress: Why did you pick NC State, given that they have a first year coach in Sidney Lowe?
Hickson: That’s one of the main reasons that I picked NC State, because he was a first year coach.. He played there, he won a national championship, so he knows what it takes to get there…the skills that it takes to get there. He knows what a team has to put together to get there. He pushes his players to work hard, and I’m trying to go there and be great.
DraftExpress: Now you have really expanded your perimeter game that wasn’t really existent in the summer. How have you been able to extend your shooting range so much in such a short period of time?
Hickson: Just a lot of hard work in the gym. I shoot endless shots in the gym working on my 18 footer. Just catching the ball, taking my time, and working on proper mechanics. Just working hard at it.
DraftExpress: Has Coach Lowe spoken with you specifically about what your role is going to be next year, with you having Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley playing similar positions?
Hickson: He didn’t tell me my specific role, but he told me that he expects me to come in and be a leader on and off the court, and to push my teammates.
DraftExpress: What are your thoughts on the way the summer camp circuit has changed? Nike appeared to be the only camp, but now Reebok has announced that they will be holding a summer camp as well. Do you prefer it with two camps, or with all three as in year’s past?
Hickson: I don’t really care. I like it better with three camps because you have more kids who can go and make a name for themselves, so I like three camps better.
DraftExpress: What are your thoughts on the NBA’s age limit?
Hickson: I mean, I’m 50/50 on it. As a ball player, I would like to see high school players be able to go right to the league. You have to look at the other side of it. People good in high school may not be good in the NBA, or fit that mold as an NBA player. So I’m 50/50.
DraftExpress: With you choosing NC State, were you looking for a school that you would have the opportunity to be one and done at?
Hickson: That could be a possibility. I’m not going there thinking I’m just going to be one year and done. I’m going in there with the right mindset of just working hard. Then if the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll talk about it with my family and my coaches and just go from there.
DraftExpress: Ohio State or Florida?
DraftExpress: Tell me about the pressure that you receive as an elite player to play in their respective all-star games and camps?
Hickson: That’s just the business side of basketball. What camps you’re going to and who sponsors you in the summer. Whoever sponsors you in the summer is what camp or all-star game you’re supposed to go to.
DraftExpress: Why did you choose to play in the Roundball as opposed to the Jordan or Adidas games?
Hickson: Because the best players are going to be here. There’s a lot of talent here and everyone here is competitive. That’s why I chose to play in the Roundball game.
Hickson’s developing skill set was put on display yet again, with the stage now being the Roundball Classic. His face the basket game has improved leaps and bounds over the last year. His improving perimeter game in addition to his solid low post skills, great body, and good athleticism should allow him to contribute immediately next year at North Carolina State, despite their already loaded frontcourt. Along with Jonny Flynn and Gani Lawal, J.J. is the only other player to have played well in every single McDonald’s practice, the game itself, and now the first Roundball practice session.[Read Full Article]
J.J. Hickson had one of the better showings of any of the players at the McDonald’s All-America game in the limited time he saw on the floor. Comparing him from last summer in Las Vegas to the player we see today, it’s really night and day in how much he’s managed to improved. His body is much better, his perimeter game has evolved, and he seems to have quite a bit more purpose in the way he conducts himself on the floor. He really did a nice job showing all of these things together in the 16 minutes he played, but especially in the three days of practice our colleague Rodger Bohn was at.
Hickson put the ball on the floor to create his own shot, knocked down a 16 foot jumper, used his body extraordinary well in the post, and finished effectively around the basket, particularly after grabbing offensive rebounds. He’s an excellent athlete, blessed with great quickness for a player his size, to go along with his strength and leaping ability.
Sidney Lowe already has two outstanding post players to work with, and his rotation just appears to have gotten that much deeper with the addition of a true back to the basket threat.
J.J. brought his A game yet again Tuesday, finishing well inside and playing the role of bruiser for his squad. He continued to battle with Patrick Patterson in the paint, and showed the ability to finish at the rim with either hand. Hickson rebounded the ball well, while playing solid positional defense in the post. He has been one of the most consistent players here on the week, and should have a solid performance in the game Wednesday night due to his athleticism and ability to finish inside.[Read Full Article]
The Georgia native had yet another strong performance in practice Monday, showing an emerging perimeter game that was non-existent for so long. He displayed great hands and finished well inside, while still knocking down 15 foot jumpers on a regular basis. It has been a big week thus far for Hickson in separating himself from some of the other power forwards in the class of 2007, and a strong performance in the McDonald’s game itself would seal the deal.[Read Full Article]
Having not seen Hickson since the Reebok Big Time in late July, it was surprising to see how much the athletic big man has expanded his game offensively in the past 8 months. Once considered a player who could only score from 8 feet and in, the Georgia native showed the ability to score also when facing the basket Sunday. He was able to convert on numerous 12-15 foot jump shots, while also utilizing his athleticism down low on the blocks. The N.C. State signee finished everything inside, running the pick and roll to perfection with O.J. Mayo. If Hickson is able to continue to improve at this rate, he will certainly be able to fit right in the rotation of the outstanding Wolfpack frontline of Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley next season.[Read Full Article]