By Douglas Dilillo
With LeBron James taking his “talents” elsewhere, it could finally be another players’ turn to shine in the Wine and Gold.
The Cavaliers seem to have several complimentary players but if anyone can eventually be “the guy” for Cleveland, all signs point to J.J Hickson.
The third year power forward came on strong last season after a relatively mild rookie campaign in 2008’-09’.
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In his second year he began to show the flashes as a player that garnered him ACC All-Freshman team and a conference honorable mention.
While it has taken Hickson some time to develop in the NBA, he was an immediate threat at North Carolina State. A consensus five star, blue chip recruit, he came in and made an impact for the Wolfpack from the start. In his very first game at NCST, he put up 31 points on a perfect 12-for-12 from the field.
It was clear that the Wolfpack faithful should enjoy Hickson while they could because many believed he was proving he was ready to move to the NBA after one season.
The Cavaliers picked Hickson with the 19th pick in the 2008 draft and most draft analysts believe he was a player who would need time to develop before truly making an impact at the NBA level.
In his second season Hickson began to contribute. Starting in 73 games and playing roughly 21 minutes a night, he averaged 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds for the year.
It was the playoffs, however, where things got interesting for Hickson. He was practically unseen in the series to the Celtics. Coach Mike Brown chose to go with more “veteran” players in an attempt to stop Boston’s run to another NBA Finals. Hickson’s role was also more limited when the Cavaliers acquired Antwan Jamison from the Wizards before last season’s trade deadline.
His role became diminished and rumors spread, especially in the playoffs, that James was less than thrilled with Hickson’s reduced place on the team. Some even believed James’ distant behavior in the playoffs was due to his unhappiness over Hickson.
This season will be drastically different. No James and a variety of other post players including Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Illgauskas have departed.
The Cavalier’s front court will look dramatically different and with the lack of a true center, it seems that Anderson Varejao may slide out to the five. That will give Hickson even more exposure as Cleveland begins what is going to be a rebuilding process in the era after James.
Hickson is going to be one of the cornerstones for which Cleveland can build. He is doing everything he can to improve, including playing in the summer league team with fellow teammates Danny Greene and Christian Eyenga.
Cleveland’s new head man, Byron Scott has talked about Hickson and how he looks at the third year player going forward.
“I was very happy he came,” Scott said in a press conference about Hickson’s decision to partake in the summer league. “He understands that he has to get better this year. His role is going to be bigger. I expect more from J.J. I like what I’ve seen. He’s making a jump shot on a consistent basis and that’s one of the things he had to improve on.”
Scott also said he has been working with Hickson to have a more complete offensive game including trying to improve his jump shot and that he expects Hickson to have a “breakout season”
With the lack of an impact player for the Cavaliers this season, Scott will be on the lookout for a guy who Cleveland can lean on when things get tough in 2010.
Hickson might just be that guy.
“I am excited about what J.J. is going to do this year,” Scott told Sporting News recently. “He has had a great summer, he is in great shape and I think he is playing with a lot of confidence. We are going to be a running team, we are going to get up and down, and that’s where J.J. can excel.”