The Nuggets made their first splash in free agency Sunday, agreeing to terms with center/forward J.J. Hickson on a three-year $15 million deal. The contract will not become official until Wednesday.
Hickson will add depth to the Nuggets frontcourt that includes JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov and newly acquired Darrell Arthur. Hickson has played six years in the NBA and averaged 12.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in 2012-2013 starting for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Hickson, 6-foot-9 242 pounds, is a powerful, athletic big who can rebound and score around the rim and in the post. Hickson ran into trouble last season on the defensive end, and was exploited when he started as an undersized center for the Trail Blazers. Hickson is a double-double machine when given minutes, but is more suited for the power forward position than banging in the post with larger centers on both ends. Hickson figures to come off the Nuggets bench and add extra surges of energy on the glass, score points and throw down some rim-rattling dunks.
Hickson, 24, was a 2007 McDonald’s All-American and played college basketball at North Carolina State. He was selected 19th by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2008 NBA Draft. The Nuggets will be his fourth team in his NBA career.
With Hickson on now on board, training camp will be interesting for the Nuggets and their now young and crowded frontcourt. With Kosta Koufos out of the picture after being traded on draft day with the 27th pick Rudy Gobert to Memphis for Arthur, the Nuggets look to have made room for JaVale McGee to get his shot at being the starting center. McGee, Gallinari, and Faried are locks to be significant contributors to the Nuggets rotation, but Randolph, Mozgov, Arthur, and Hickson will fight for minutes in the Nuggets rotation especially with Gallinari out with an ACL injury. Gallinari was initially slated to be out until February, but he says his rehab is going well and is hoping to be back sooner than expected.