The Denver Nuggets signed NBA free-agent power forward J.J. Hickson to a three-year deal worth approximately $15 million on July 7. With the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2012–13 season, the 6-foot-9, 242 pounder averaged an impressive 12.7 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. It would be safe to say that J.J. raised his game and turned into a double-double machine last season. Entering his sixth season out of North Carolina State, the young 24-year-old will be a valued commodity for the Nuggets in the 2013–14 NBA season.
There are several key attributes that Hickson brings to the Nuggets this year. He adds additional size and physicality to the frontcourt, someone who can score in the low-post while Denver is grinding in their half-court sets, an additional big man that can run the floor in transition, and especially his innate ability to attack the glass and rebound on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
When the Nuggets’ front office made the decision to sign Hickson, many people thought that this meant Kenneth “Manimal” Faried would be on the trading block. However, moving Faried would make absolutely no sense with what Denver is clearly trying to do. J.J. adds another front court presence to the team. And, if we look at some of the Nuggets’ big flaws last season, it was a lack of size on the interior as well as a lack of timely rebounding on both ends of the floor. In the upcoming NBA season, the squad will be able to play a bigger lineup with potentially JaVale McGee at center and Kenneth and J.J. at the power forward positions.
Since all three big men can run the floor, Denver won’t lose anything in transition and will gain size which they desperately need against more physical opponents. In addition, the Nuggets will be better able to execute in the half-court during the playoffs when teams can sometimes slow them down to a snail’s pace. Of course, the team wants to run the floor while dictating tempo and pace. However, many of us know come NBA playoff time that the ability to play at a slower pace with bigger lineups and clearing the boards on both ends of the court has been the key to success with teams that advance deep into the playoffs.
It has been clear that some of the Nuggets’ problems have been due to a lack of size on the interior and the capacity to rebound as well as successfully play at a slower tempo come playoff time.
With the key free-agent signing of Hickson, the Nuggets have added a double-double machine that will provide the team with another low-post scorer and rebounder, allowing them to advance deeper in the 2013–14 NBA playoffs.