It looks like the Portland Trail Blazers could pass on bringing J.J. Hickson back for another season. That's too bad, because I really liked the size and energy that he provided the team down the stretch last year. He was a great player to start alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, but apparently the front office for the Blazers isn't quite as enamored with him as I was.
The Oregonian is reporting that it seems highly unlikely that Hickson will be extended a qualifying offer. This is key, because Hickson is a restricted free agent if the Blazers do that, likely keeping other NBA teams from poaching him. Other franchises could still make Hickson an offer, but the Blazers would have an opportunity to match any contract.
Going in a different direction will free up more cap space for the Blazers and there is still a chance that they could sign Hickson to a smaller deal later in free agency. If they wanted to keep him, the Blazers would have to extend a qualifying offer of $4.4 million and place a cap hold of $5.9 million on their finances. That's a big commitment and apparently one that the front office is not comfortable making at this time.
Selecting Illinois center Meyers Leonard in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft may solve the issues that the Blazers have at center anyways. If he can prove himself during the fall camps, maybe Leonard is ready to step right into the starting lineup. That would make Hickson expendable anyways and it is a strong possibility that the Blazers' front office is looking at the situation with that in mind.
I'm disappointed that Hickson may have played his last game for the Blazers, especially after averaging 15.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game for them last year. Those are hard numbers to find from a big man and he is still just 23 years old. Another franchise is going to get considered very lucky if they can sign Hickson for a small contract this NBA offseason, which could allow a contender like the Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns or Houston Rockets to make a nice upgrade without having to give up much.
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*Ryan is a Northwest bred sports fan that has been a Portland Trail Blazers fan for years. He has high hopes that the Blazers can make it to the Western Conference Playoffs again next year.
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