Blazers Claim FA F J.J. Hickson Off Waivers After Buyout By Kings; Release C Mehmet Okur

Sam Amick of SI.com reports that the Portland Trail Blazers have acquired the rights to big man J.J. Hickson off of waivers after he was bought out by the Sacramento Kings earlier this week. This counts as a genuine surprise: recent rumors had linked Hickson to the Golden State Warriors. Amick adds...

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JJ Hickson, I'm told, is in New Orleans with Golden State & will now be rerouted to Portland. Ouch.

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Portland's roster is currently full at 15 players, but the team could release center Mehmet Okur to free a roster spot, something Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan said was a possibility on Monday. The Blazers have also reportedly been in buyout discussions with forward Shawne Williams. Both Okur and Williams were acquired in the trade that sent forward Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets.

Update: Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports...

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League source confirms report: Blazers claim J.J. Hickson off waivers. Will waive Mehmet Okur to make room on roster. Team source says the Blazers are hopeful Hickson will be able to join team tomorrow.

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Blazers owner Paul Allen tweets...

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Portland Trail Blazers claim JJ Hickson PF/C off waivers from Sacramento. Welcome to the Blazers!

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Update: The Blazers have confirmed both the Hickson signing and the Okur waiving via text message to the media.

Here's a bit from the press release.

The Portland Trail Blazers have claimed forward J.J. Hickson off waivers, it was announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"We like J.J.'s energy and physicality," said Acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. "He's a young, but experienced player who can help our frontline."

Hickson will wear jersey No. 21, according to Blazers public relations staffer Jim Taylor.

Hickson, a 23-year-old 6-foot-9, 242 lb. forward, was a first round draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers out of North Carolina State in 2009. He was traded by Cleveland to the Sacramento Kings just prior to the lockout in exchange for forward Omri Casspi.

Hickson averaged 4.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game off the bench for the Kings this season. His career averages: 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds over four seasons.

According to StorytellersContracts.com, Hickson is in the final year of his contract and was on the books for $2.4 million this season.

File this one under: "Why not?" That Hickson is on his third NBA team during his rookie deal and that he was paid to go home by one of the NBA's worst and most cost-conscious teams are giant red flags. But there's really nothing to lose at this point if you're Portland. Except, of course, for Luke Babbitt's playing time.

Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus provided this buyout analysis...

Hickson has suffered a rapid tumble from promising young player in Cleveland to afterthought. I'm not sure Hickson was ever quite as effective as his reputation suggested. Hickson's poor net plus-minus suggested he wasn't fitting in to the Cavaliers' team concept at the defensive end. At worst, it still looked like Hickson could be a Chris Wilcox-type who contributed enough with his finishing ability and rebounding to offset defensive deficiencies.

That hope withered as Hickson changed roles on offense. He was most effective, certainly, when playing with LeBron James in Cleveland. His shot-type data at Hoopdata.com is telling. In 2009-10, 65.1 percent of Hickson's shot attempts came at the rim. That dipped to 46.6 percent last year and 34.7 percent so far this season. Hickson was also less effective as a finisher, and was assisted less frequently. All those numbers fit together, and they're reinforced by NBA.com/stats' data on James' influence on Hickson. During 2009-10, Hickson tried 70.4 percent of his shots within five feet when James was on the floor, and just 55.8 percent when he was on the bench. Not coincidentally, Hickson's shooting percentage dropped from 57.6 percent to 44.2 percent when James hit the bench.

So a lot of Hickson's potential was a function of playing with James. Beyond that, Hickson proved less capable of creating good shots by beating slower defenders to the rim over time. The James factor alone can't explain why Hickson is shooting at the rim so little this year. Hickson has never consistently been able to score either in the post or on jumpers, so if he can't get point-blank attempts, he's bound to struggle on offense.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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