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Levy: Blazers F/C J.J. Hickson Finds His Identity After Dealing With Huge Expectations In Cleveland

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A writer reflects on Portland Trail Blazers forward/center J.J. Hickson's time in Cleveland and how high expectations impacted his reputation.

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Ian Levy of Hickory High examines Portland Trail Blazers forward/center J.J. Hickson, who is putting up some of the biggest numbers of his career. Levy wonders what impact overly optimistic early expectations had on the perception of Hickson as a player in recent years.

Instead, Hickson began his career with LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Cleveland desperately needed a star to pair with LeBron and so the focus of Hickson's player development was on his potential instead of his present. Stars score and create their own shots, and thus he was lavished with isolation possessions and opportunities to work with the ball on the wing instead of in the paint. Hickson spent three seasons in Cleveland. In each of the last two, the number of mid-range jumpshots he attempted rose, topping out at 5.9 per 40 minutes in 2011. The percentage of those shots which were unassisted also dropped precipitously over that time span. In 2011, his only season in Cleveland without LeBron, he attempted 331 shots from 10-23ft., making just 32%, with just 64.1% of those makes having been assisted on. This season he is averaging just 2.6 shots per 40 minutes from that range, making 57.1%.

I find it ironic that Hickson has largely been viewed as a failure or incomplete player, when this only makes sense in the context of expectations. The problem is that those expectations were based on what his teams hoped he could do, not an appreciation of what he actually could do. Is J.J. Hickson really a failure just because he's J.J. Hickson and not Chris Webber? Please keep in mind, that although he's not Chris Webber, J.J. Hickson is a pretty good basketball player.

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