J.J. Hickson made a leap this year and with it made a statement — he is a quality NBA big man. He’s averaged 12.9 points a game on 56.7 percent shooting with 10 rebounds a game on top of that. He’s got a PER of 19.9.
The problem is, the Blazers use him as a center next to their All-Star power forward LeMarcus Aldridge. Even in today’s “small ball” NBA a center at 6’9” is going to get you in trouble.
Blazers GM Neil Olshey was frank in speaking with the Oregonian and saying he doesn’t expect the Blazers will bring back Hickson, who is a free agent this summer.
“For us to make a jump next season, JJ can’t be our starting center,’’ Olshey said, referencing the Blazers’ 47.4 points allowed in the paint per game, an NBA high. “I’m not saying he can’t be part of the roster. But we need to find a starting-caliber center who protects the rim and gets defensive rebounds at a high rate and that has a presence. And we have to do a better job at defending the paint. So you have to ask: Is it likely there is enough minutes to commit the kind of dollars JJ will command, when clearly there are other positions that need to be upgraded? Probably not.’’
Portland is 24th in the NBA in defense (on points allowed per possession) and that is the end of the floor where they need to improve. That means players need to get better at staying in front of their man (I’m looking at you, Damian Lillard) and they need a big to clean up some of those messes from the perimeter.
Those kinds of big men cost money, and while Portland has the cap space (about $12 million this summer) that’s not enough to sign a quality defensive center and bring back Hickson at what he will likely draw on the open market.
So let the bidding for Hickson begin.
The Spurs’ 94-87 win over the Mavericks on Wednesday didn’t produce the Gregg Popovich fireworks that followed San Antonio’s last win over Dallas.
But Wednesday’s game still featured a very strange moment, when a cameraman ran onto the floor during play.
I’m not so bothered by the cameraman. He clearly thought a timeout had been called, potentially getting confused by the shot-clock buzzer sounding. It’s not ideal, but mistakes happen.
But why did the officials allow play to continue? That was absurd (though, thankfully, irrelevant).
(hat tip: reddit user Pontus_Pilates)
Before the season, Nerlens Noel called the 76ers’ center situation – with himself, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor – “silly.”
Philadelphia general manager Bryan Colangelo advised Noel to stay in his place. 76ers coach Brett Brown told Noel focusing on his strengths would yield a big payday. Noel has mostly been away from the team while rehabbing from surgery.
Has any of that changed Noel’s perspective?
Noel, via Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:
“I don’t think the roster’s changed,” Noel said Thursday. “So, I don’t think the roster’s changed.”
Noel didn’t seem concerned that he wouldn’t fit back in with the team after being away for the start of the season. He envisions his role as simply “being Nerlens Noel.” What exactly that will entail will unfold this season.
“I put myself in a different place with all these things,” Noel said. “Do what you can control. That’s what I give power to, is what I can really control. I think right now I’m in a good place mentally, I think my body feels great and I just want to get back to playing basketball and let things take care of themselves.”
This sounds like someone who still wants out.
In fact, the 76ers have only gotten bigger, trading combo forward Jerami Grant to the Thunder for power forward Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova will limit Philadelphia’s opportunities to play two-center lineups – not that those appear fruitful. Plus, Embiid will get more minutes.
A defense-first interior player, Noel faces a tough fit. The 76ers just don’t have a roster that complements his skills after years of asset accumulation and tanking – which also likely grinds on him.
Noel said he’ll focus on what he can control, and I believe he’ll try. But it’s hard when the situation around him is so counter to his best interests.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is expected to be finished soon, but with months until the current deal expires, both the owners and players can afford to take their time and get the details right.
Both sides reportedly agreed to keep the age minimum – which requires players to be 19 and one year removed from their high school class’ graduation – in place.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Other issues, like the age limit for players entering the league, are still on the table. The league has long sought to increase the age limit from its current 19, and at least one year removed from one’s high school class, to at least 20 years of age. The union has talked about a “zero and two” setup, similar to that used by baseball — players can enter the Draft out of high school, but if they choose to go to college, they have to stay in college at least two years (in baseball, it’s three years) before declaring for the Draft.
The union wants to lower the age minimum. Adam Silver wants to raise it.
Most likely, the current one-and-done rule remains in place.
But a zero-or-two setup could be an interesting compromise. That would allow players certain they’re ready for the pros out of high school to declare for the NBA draft. In all other cases, Silver would get his wish.
Again, the status quo likely remains in tact. But it’s good both sides are discussing the issue to see whether there’s a better solution.
Take comfort, chairs and staffers.
The 76ers have raised Joel Embiid‘s minute limit from 24 to 28.
Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:
This was never a hard limit. Embiid played more than 24 minutes in five of his 12 games with a high of 27 in an overtime contest. Presumably, the new “limit” will also allow for Embiid to sometimes it.
Embiid’s numbers per 36 minutes are eye-popping: 28.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 blocks and 6.4 turnovers. A small workload likely factors into his per-minute dominance, and he’s still a long way from typical starter minutes. But I’m interested to see how his production translates over a larger sample.
The 76ers, in their mission to be less bad this season, will also appreciate a few more minutes of Embiid. They defend like the NBA’s second-best defense with him on the floor and the league’s second-worst defense without him. They also score a little better with him. Overall, they get outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions with him and a whopping 14.2 points per 100 possessions without him.
This could give Philadelphia a couple extra wins over the rest of the season. At minimum, it’ll make the 76ers more enjoyable to watch for a few more minutes each game.