J.J. Hickson is out for the year after tearing his ACL last night against the Mavericks, per a team release. The five-year veteran has averaged 11.8 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Nuggets this season, serving as Denver’s starting center in a majority of their games. Hickson is in the first year of a three-year, $16MM contract.
The Nuggets already have the maximum of 15 guaranteed roster spots filled, so they won’t be adding any players to plug into the rotation. The absence of Hickson will open up significant playing time for Jan Vesely, whom the Nuggets acquired from the Wizards at the trade deadline as part of the Andre Miller three-team deal. Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com writes that coach Brian Shaw was already planning to give Vesely a closer look as the season winds down, but a thinner frontcourt will ensure that happens.
Vesely has been a disappointment for most of his career after being taken as the sixth overall selection in the 2011 draft by the Wizards. He’s shooting .488 from the field and a dismal .279 from the free throw stripe, percentages that have dropped each year in his career. Vesely’s athleticism has never been in question, but his raw ability has remained unpolished to this point.