And so ends the J.J. Hickson era for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unfortunately, it happened about a year and a half later than it should have. If you don’t recall, the Cavaliers had an opportunity to acquire Amare Stoudemire from the Suns at the trade deadline in 2010, but deemed J.J. to be untouchable. As a result, the talks fell apart, the Cavs acquired Antawn Jamison instead and well… the rest shall live in Cleveland lore for decades to come.
Today however, the Cavaliers decided that it was finally time to part ways with the seemingly bipolar power forward and move in a different direction. This was all but assured on draft night when the Cavs selected Tristan Thompson, another young power foward project that I dubbed J.J. Hickson version 2.0. Despite the upside that still remains to be uncovered with J.J. Hickson, the Cavaliers decided that now was the time to make a move and get something for him before the expiration of the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement at midnight tonight.
So what exactly did the Cavaliers do?
The Cavaliers sent J.J. Hickson to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Omri Casspi and next years 1st round draft choice. Settle down Cavs fans. This won’t turn into another Los Angeles Clippers miracle pick. Learning from the mistake of their division rival, the Kings traded their 2011 first round pick with lottery protection next year and top 13, 12, and 10 protection for five years following. It’s very possible we might not actually get to use that draft pick for anywhere from 1 to 5 years and even when we do, it’s not likely to be very high.
The prize of this trade, at least from my vantage point, is the acquisition of Omri Casspi. He was the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 draft and has shown a tremendous amount of promise in his brief time in the NBA. He can potentially provide the Cavaliers with something they have been sorely missing. A legitimate NBA small forward who can put the ball in the basket. He has shown flashes so far in his young career that he can score. Granted his scoring numbers aren’t the greatest, 9.5 points per game, but he was far from the #1 scoring option, came off the bench, and often found himself playing with Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins, exhibits A and B on ball hogging and being a complete basket case.
Casspi also bring size and athleticism to the Cavaliers small forward spot. He’s a solid built 6’9″ 225 lbs. The Cavaliers haven’t come out and made a statement about their immediate plans with Casspi, but I can assure you they plan to pair him with Kyrie Irving and be one of the focal points of their offense. The Cavs have said however, that they heavily pursued Casspi in the 2009 draft but he was selected by the Kings before they could pick at #30. Instead they were forced to opt for Christian Eyenga.
Sending J.J. to Sacramento also paves the way for the Cavs to focus their collective efforts on developing #4 overall pick Tristan Thompson who should step in right a way to play the power forward spot. Like Hickson, Thompson is quite a project on the offensive end, but unlike Hickson, he has proven to have a non-stop motor when it comes to rebounding and defense. Hopefully that means we won’t see major lapses on the defensive end that we had come to experience with Hickson over the past few years.
Finally, the Cavs are still looking to make a move with their $14 million trade exception. With the lockout looming at 12:01 AM, the Cavs need to hurry. They have already filed a petition to have the trade exception extended, but there is no guarantee that the league will grant it. It’s very possible that we may see no return from the sign and trade of LeBron James almost 365 days ago next week. If they can find a trade partner and get some one in here to play the 2 spot, preferably a legit #1 scorer, it could be a huge development for the team moving forward.