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Sacramento Kings Overpaid for J.J. Hickson by Giving up Omri Casspi, Pick

The Kings and Cavaliers snuck a trade in before the NBA lockout was announced Thursday, exchanging Omri Casspi and a lottery-protected 2012 first-round pick for J.J. Hickson.

Other than losing the support of Jewish fans everywhere, I thought it was a pretty good trade for the Kings. My initial reaction was sweet, Geoff Petrie finally managed to pull off a trade without getting reamed.

Considering he got killed in the Beno Udrih-John Salmons trade and has a track record of being on the losing end of one-sided deals, getting Hickson seemed like a major coup. Remember, Petrie is the guy who essentially traded Kevin Martin for 27 games of Marcus Thornton.

Looking more closely at Hickson’s numbers last season, though, I’m not so convinced. I’m beginning to think the Kings overpaid for him.

When LeBron James ditched Cleveland, Hickson was asked to pick up more of the offensive load. 2010-11 was basically his time to shine. He was given more playing time and was incorporated more into the offense. As a result, his scoring increased from 8.5 points per game to 13.8.

Unfortunately, that increase held about as much weight as a Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson romantic comedy. Which is to say it was fool’s gold. His per game scoring may have increased, but the rest of Hickson’s offensive numbers sunk. Field goal shooting, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, offensive win shares. All those fell substantially.

On top of that, there were questions about Hickson’s consistency and his attitude. He was shuffled in and out of the starting lineup last season on account of his roller coaster-like productivity, and he and Cavs coach Byron Scott clashed often in the press, including public spats in October, December and January.

If not for Rip Hamilton and John Kuester, Hickson and Scott would have been the NBA’s version of Charlie Sheen and Chuck Lorre last season.

There’s something to be said about losing breeding contentiousness. The Cavs were the second worst team in the league last year. That’s bound to flare tempers more than normal. But that doesn’t bode well for the Kings. They’ve been losing for some time now as well, and Paul Westphal is not a well respected coach. He carries little more, if any, gravitas than Scott.

The Kings already have enough bad behavior in their locker room. They need players who can cut the tension of losing, not make it worse. Casspi was one of those guys. By all reports, Hickson isn’t. That could become a problem very quickly, especially with DeMarcus Cousins in the mix.

Hickson is a talented young player. He’ll give Sacramento rebounding and athleticism in the front court, and he’s a defensive upgrade over Jason Thompson.

Still, I think Petrie overpaid.

The Cavs were just as crowded at power forward as the Kings were at small forward. Their need for Casspi was equal to the Kings’ need for Hickson. Yes, Hickson was drafted slightly higher (19th overall in 2008 to Casspi’s 23rd overall in 2009) and is a little bit younger (it’s literally a matter of months), but it was a mutually beneficial deal.

In fact, Casspi’s win share total last season, though a paltry 2.5, was higher than Hickson’s (1.5).

In my opinion, the addition of the first round pick was more about reputation than actual value. Hickson’s hype was higher than Casspi’s hype because he was once rumored in deals for Amare Stoudemire. This meant Sacramento had to throw in more chips than it normally would have, something that has gotten Petrie in trouble in the past.

The decision to include a first rounder was likely made in the interest of time (the lockout was bearing down like a freight train at that point), so I can’t knock it too much. But the Kings are not going to make it back to the playoffs if they continue to make a habit of losing value in trades in order to get rid of pieces that don’t fit.

They’re a small market team. They can’t afford to be on the 40-60 end of every deal.

Petrie is a terrific evaluator of young talent. His work in the draft with Sacramento has been commendable. But he needs to be more shrewd in the way he conducts trades. Hickson was a big “get” for the Kings, but based on his inconsistency and the inflation that comes with his hype, I don’t think the Kings should have included a first round pick.


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  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    You brought up a few good points there. It’s a lot harder to be the man when all the pressure is on you, and I think that’s what happened with Hickson. Also, after he clashed with Scott, no surprise they wanted to deal him.

    Not a bad deal for Sacramento, but not a huge win. But was the Kevin Martin deal that bad? Didn’t they at least get rid of a bad long-term deal?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2BYYNBI5GWGLCMD22XJ2CKGJQA Patrick Crawley

    They got rid of a big contract, yes. But he was their franchise player (granted, not a very good franchise player, but a franchise player nonetheless) and they sold him for 60 cents on the dollar. First for Carl Landry, who was a terrible fit for them. Then for Thornton, who may or may not be around in the future because of free agency. You can’t do that if you’re a small market team. If you give up talent, you have to get talent back.