In surprise, Portland claims J.J. Hickson on waivers

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Last year before the lockout, J.J. Hickson was considered a prospect on par with Omri Casspi, and they were traded for each other.

But his performance this season left him glued to the bench of an unimpressive Kings team. Paul Westphal or Keith Smart, neither thought his play warranted minutes — he was shooting 37 percent, had almost two turnovers to ever assist and wasn’t playing great defense. The point the Kings decided to waive him.

Word on the street was Golden State was going to sign him after he cleared waivers (he had even flown to New Orleans where the Warriors were), but the Trail Blazers jumped in and claimed him (taking on the rest of his $2.3 million salary this season, reports Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated.

The Blazers are intrigued by Hickson’s upside, as he is an athletic and physical player who averaged 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in his third and final season in Cleveland (2010-11). The Blazers will have the remainder of the season to analyze the current state of his game, and he will be their restricted free agent this summer.

The Blazers have thrown in the towel on this season, so taking a flier on an athletic player isn’t the worst idea. I wouldn’t expect much — the Kings waived him, that should tell you something — but it’s worth a shot.