Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com (Insider) ranks the top 30 free agents in the 2013 class based on how much he would pay them. Portland Trail Blazers forward/center J.J. Hickson ranks No. 15. Blazers guard Eric Maynor ranks No. 30.
Since coming to Portland, Hickson has had the opportunity to showcase his athleticism and finishing ability while expanding his game. Despite never shooting more than 34 percent from long 2-point range prior to this season, Hickson is shooting an incredible 53 percent from that distance this season. Plus, he combines incredible athleticism in pick-and-roll situations with the ability to pick-and-pop. Additionally, Hickson is rebounding at career-high rates on both ends of the court (ORB%: 13; DRB%: 29), and is one of just 10 players this season to average a double-double (Tyson Chandler, Tim Duncan, Horford, Howard, David Lee, Kevin Love, Joakim Noah, Zach Randolph, Anderson Varejao).
Despite the fact that all of those players make upward of $10 million per season, I don't feel Hickson is worth that level of pay; for one, he doesn't have the track record those other nine players have as far as consistent production, and he might be the worst team-scheme defender among the group. I'd offer Hickson a four-year, $30 million deal, and would hesitate to commit more dollars without reducing the guarantee on later years.
A knee injury early last season took Maynor from a member of the Oklahoma City core to expendable trade asset, but landing in Portland will be a good thing for him. He is exactly what the Blazers needed at backup point guard: A steady hand who will efficiently run the offense, knock down open shots and -- most importantly for Portland -- allow Damian Lillard to play off the ball down the stretch to take advantage of his scoring ability. Maynor's qualifying offer is worth $3.3 million, but by taking a discounted, two-year, $5 million deal, he guarantees himself an extra $2.5 million should he not perform to expectations in 2013-14, while still retaining the ability to re-enter free agency in 2014 with his player option.
Hickson received a one-year, $4 million from the Blazers as a free agent last summer.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter