Likely better than Freeland. Leonard would probably out jump him but Leonard is not ready.
Despite sub par defense Hickson is not a hak. As a rookie shot blocker Leonard will certainly have a higher foul rate and Freeland will need to sharpen his fundamentals before he can defend with his feet since his vertical is only decent and his wingspan is sub-par. Hickson should use his quickness to draw fouls against opposing Centers. Less fouls from starters helps keep you out of the penalty for longer.
3. Forces Leonard and Freeland to prove themselves.
JJ averages almost 10 per-36 on slower paced teams. He is a solid enough rebounder and that is an area of weakness post Oden/Camby.
5. There arent many 5s in the NBA that can efficiently use their size against Hickson
The few that can could likely do the same against Freeland and Leonard anyway. Until Leonard learns how to use leverage his post defense will be as much of a liability as JJs.
6. Sends a message that rewards good play.
At 23 Hickson could certainly improve and he could also regress from the plus 20 player efficiency he posted as a Trail Blazer. He earned the right to decide his own fate especially considering the bargain contract he signed. He could have received more elsewhere so let him decide what he wants to become with consistent minutes.
7. He is a good fit next to Aldridge
He does things better than Aldridge. He sets better picks. He rolls hard on pick and rolls. He can go into garbage man mode, he attacks better off the dribble and seems to have a little bit better touch near the hoop. Those are good compliments, thus more chemistry.
8. He is durable and doesnt mind the position.
Aldridge doesnt want to play the position JJ doesnt care as long as he is on the court.