Most Denver Nuggets fans did more than a little head scratching when the team signed center-forward J.J. Hickson this summer. Although Hickson had a great season last year playing as an undersized center for the Portland Trail Blazers, his natural position is power forward and the Nuggets seemed to have both positions pretty locked up.
Javale McGee and the expected resigning of Timofey Mozgov had the center position under wraps and fan-favorite Kenneth Faried along with the recent trade for Darrell Arthur seemed to have the power forward spot in good hands.
All of the sudden it seemed like the Nuggets were assembling way too much front court depth and the trade winds starting swirling around Denver. It’s funny how things work out.
When Javale McGee went down with a stress fracture in his left leg, Hickson selflessly slid over as the starting center so coach Shaw could keep the continuity of Mozgov coming off the bench with the second unit. Hickson did this without a thought to the offseason pitch from Tim Connelly, vice president of basketball operations for the Nuggets.
“When Tim called he said we’re looking for you to play power forward, so that was a good thing and that’s basically how I made my decision,” said Hickson at his introductory press conference in Denver.
So far this season, again pushed into the role of undersized center, Hickson is leading the Nuggets in rebounding and is third in scoring at 11.4 points per game. With McGee out indefinitely, it is hard to imagine this team without Hickson if the front office didn’t assemble what appeared to be an overcrowded power forward position.
Any skeptics left out there wondering about Hickson’s impact with this Nuggets team just needed to pay a little extra attention during last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Phoenix Suns. Hickson entered the 4th quarter with just four points and four rebounds. He finished the game with 13 points and 14 rebounds. The rest of the team only contributed eight points in the quarter as Phoenix outscored the home team 31-17 to win the game 103-99.
Hickson may not be our savior, a future hall of famer or the marquis free agent signing everybody wanted, but his sacrifice and success has meant more to this team than many fans ever thought it would.