J.J. Hickson

Nuggets Rumors: Hickson, Barton, Lauvergne

J.J. Hickson has handled trade rumors and reduced playing time in the best possible way, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. The Nuggets have been shopping the 27-year-old center/forward, who has been with the team since signing as a free agent in 2013. Hickson, who has fallen out of the rotation, is making nearly $5.614MM this season in the final year of an expiring contract. Coach Michael Malone has acknowledged the difficult situation that Hickson is in and complimented him for approaching it professionally and keeping himself ready to play.

Dempsey lists several other Nuggets who are attracting interest as the February 18th trade deadline nears:

  • Denver is getting numerous inquiries about Will Barton but doesn’t seem interested in making a deal. The 25-year-old shooting guard has taken a step forward this season, averaging 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Dempsey says the Nuggets know they have a “gem” in Barton, who is signed through the 2017/18 season.
  • The Nuggets began getting calls on second-year center Joffrey Lauvergne before the season started. Denver turned down those offers, and Dempsey believes the team will keep Lauvergne, in spite of a report that the Nuggets are seeking a late first-round pick for him. The Post scribe acknowledges that it’s not a certainty the Nuggets will hang on to the big man, but Malone has stated more than once that he considers Lauvergne part of the future, Dempsey notes. Lauvergne, who was the 55th pick in 2013, is also signed through 2017/18.
  • Kenneth Faried isn’t on the trade block, but Dempsey believes a “too good to be true” offer might change the Nuggets’ minds. The 26-year-old power forward has three years and nearly $39MM left after this season on the extension he signed in 2014.
  • The Nuggets were mentioned in Blake Griffin trade rumors last week, but Dempsey doesn’t think the Clippers will be dealing their star forward this season. He says L.A. has a “win now” philosophy, but that could change with another playoff disappointment. If that happens, the Nuggets would still be interested in Griffin this summer.

Nuggets Shop J.J. Hickson

The Nuggets are actively in pursuit of trades that would send out J.J. Hickson, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter links). Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported last month that Denver was said to be making the power forward available. Hickson is pulling down nearly $5.614MM this season on an expiring contract.

It’s no surprise that the Nuggets would try to see what they can get for the 27-year-old, since he’s appeared in only one game since December 8th. A root canal forced him out of Denver’s landmark win over the Warriors last week, but he’s otherwise sat because he’s been out of coach Michael Malone‘s rotation. That’s a change from early in the season, when he made nine starts, averaging 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per contest in those games. He’s produced 7.6 points and 4.8 boards in 16.8 minutes per game in 18 appearances overall this year, numbers similar to last season but down from 2013/14, the first on his three-year, $16.145MM deal.

Freshly extended GM Tim Connelly has the Nuggets slightly below the salary cap and just two and a half games behind the Jazz for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, though they’d have to pass the Trail Blazers and Kings to catch Utah in the crowded standings. It’s unclear whether the Nuggets will buy or sell as the February 18th trade deadline approaches. Kyler wrote last month when he reported that both Hickson and Randy Foye were said to be available that the belief around the league was growing that the Nuggets might be close to offloading talent. However, Denver has won four of its last six after losing nine of its previous 10.

The Nuggets are likely to receive the protected 2016 first-round pick the Rockets owe them, though the one headed their way from Portland is a toss-up and the one from Memphis is unlikely to convey this year, as I noted last week. Denver also gets to swap picks with the Knicks if New York’s pick is better.

What do you think the Nuggets should prioritize receiving in a Hickson trade? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Nuggets Make J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye Available?

J.J. Hickson and Randy Foye are said to be available as belief grows around the league that the Nuggets may be moving closer to trading away talent, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. It appears unlikely Denver will offload Danilo Gallinari or another key component barring a major offer, Kyler cautions. Denver is 10-14 and in 11th place in the Western Conference. Hickson and Foye are in the final seasons of their respective contracts.

Hickson has started nine times this year and is averaging 17.9 minutes per game, but he didn’t appear in either of the last two outings for the Nuggets. He began his tenure with the Nuggets as a full-time starter in 2013/14, but he’s played a much more limited role in the two seasons since. Still, trade chatter surrounding the 27-year-old has been relatively quiet since he was reportedly a part of Denver’s offer for Brook Lopez last winter. He’s making nearly $5.614MM this season.

The last two games have also seen a sharp reduction in playing time for Foye, who’s played only 15 minutes combined in Denver’s last two contest after having started the previous six. The 32-year-old, in his 10th NBA season, is averaging career lows in points, assists and minutes per game. He’s seeing an even $3.135MM salary. The Nuggets apparently talked about trading Foye in January, but, as with Hickson, it’s largely been quiet on that front since.

Denver is slightly under the cap and without trade exceptions to use. Trading both Hickson and Foye without taking back salary in return would drop the team beneath the $63MM salary floor, so that’s an unlikely scenario.

Which team do you think would be a fit for either Hickson or Foye? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Nuggets Offer Hickson, McGee For Lopez

12:11pm: The Nets and Nuggets haven’t spoken about Lopez in a week, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

MONDAY, 7:47am: Denver’s offer included one of the 2015 first-round picks the team received in return for Timofey Mozgov last month, sources tell Stein, who writes in a full piece. The Mozgov trade gives Denver the rights to Oklahoma City’s first-round pick this year if it’s No. 19 or lower and Memphis’ first-rounder if it’s anywhere from No. 6 to No. 14.

FRIDAY, 11:20pm: The Nuggets are continuing to attempt to pry Brook Lopez away from the Nets, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). Denver has been offering Brooklyn a package of JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson for Lopez, a deal that the Nets have firmly refused, Stein adds. Chris Mannix of SI.com had reported earlier today that the Nuggets were pursuing Lopez, but were unwilling to part with Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic or Wilson Chandler in a trade. Denver had reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Lopez earlier this month as well.

Denver’s proposed swap would work under the salary cap rules without requiring any additional players to be included. Hickson is making $5,381,750 for this season and is set to earn $5,613,500 in 2015/16. McGee’s 2014/15 salary is $11.25MM, and he is due $12MM for the following season. On the Nets side of the would-be deal, Lopez is earning $15,019,762 this year, and has a player option for 2015/16 for $16,744,218.

The oft-injured McGee has only appeared in 15 games this season for the Nuggets. He is averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per contest. His career numbers are 8.5 PPG and 5.6 RPG. His slash line is .542/.200/.586 in 374 career games. The 29-year-old Hickson has appeared in 39 games for Denver, including five as a starter. He is logging 8.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. His shooting numbers for the season are .494/.000/.618.

Lopez has been the subject of numerous trade rumors the past few weeks. The Thunder, Hornets and the Nets were reportedly close to a three-way deal for the center, but the Nets decided that they didn’t want Lance Stephenson in return. The Heat were also noted to have made a bid for Lopez, offering Brooklyn a proposal that reportedly included Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts. The organization appears to be undecided on whether or not to keep Lopez, but it will likely take a more enticing package than Denver had offered in McGee and Hickson for Brooklyn to budge, though that is just my speculation.

J.J. Hickson Gets Five-Game Drug Suspension

The league has suspended Nuggets power forward J.J. Hickson without pay for the first five games of the upcoming season, Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post reports (Twitter links). The suspension is for an undisclosed violation of the league’s drug policy. The team is aware of the violation, but isn’t expected to comment, Dempsey tweets.

Hickson is in line to be the primary backup to Kenneth Faried at power forward, and in his absence Darrell Arthur will most likely handle the reserve duties. This suspension will cause Hickson to miss contests against the Pistons, Kings, and Cavs in Denver, and road games against the Thunder and the Kings. He’ll forfeit a prorated portion of his approximately $5.382MM salary for this season, though all of it will continue to count against the cap for the Nuggets.

In six seasons in the league, Hickson has averaged 10.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 0.9 APG. His career shooting numbers are .509/.000/.637.

J.J. Hickson Out For Season

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.

And-Ones: Kobe, Lakers, Woodson

The Lakers are expected to officially declare Kobe Bryant out for the rest of the 2013/14 season, as per Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. The 35-year-old guard is still dealing with discomfort after fracturing the tibial plateau in his left knee back in December. Ding adds that while the superstar guard has expressed hope in the team significantly re-tooling this summer via free agency, all signs point to the front office planning accordingly to have cap flexibility for the summer of 2015.

You can find more of tonight’s noteworthy links below:

  • With Kobe, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre presently listed as the only guaranteed contracts for next season, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times looks at the rest of the current roster to determine who has the best chance of sticking around after this year.
  • Mike Woodson‘s reported mistrust of Steve Mills partially stems from the Knicks executive’s presence in coaches meetings, practices, and road trips for large chunks of the season, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. According to Kyler, Woodson’s camp viewed it as meddling in the process and casting doubt on the coach’s job from the start.
  • Marco Belinelli doesn’t hold a grudge against the Bulls for declining to make him an offer this past summer, but his first choice would have been to re-sign with the Bulls, in spite of Tom Thibodeau’s efforts to convince the team to do so. Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News has the details, noting that when Gregg Popovich called Thibodeau for a recommendation, Thibs gave the shooting guard an endorsement.
  • Paul Millsap says he didn’t go “kicking and screaming” from the Jazz when they parted ways over the summer, adding that he respected the team’s decision not to pursue re-signing him, as Brad Rock of the Deseret News observes.
  • J.J. Hickson has hired Muhammad Abdur-Rahim and Aaron Goodwin of Goodwin Sports Management as his new agents, reports Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com (Twitter link). They replace Andy Miller of ASM Sports, whom the Nuggets big man jettisoned earlier this season.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post. 

Odds & Ends: Salaries, Rondo, Hickson

The NBA’s highest paid players used to dominate the list of the top earners in team sports, but no longer. Eight Major League Baseball players have deals that give them average annual salaries within the top 10 among all athletes in North American team sports, according to Liz Mullen and David Broughton of the SportsBusiness Journal (subscription only). Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are the other two on that list. It’s a reversal from 2000, when eight NBA players were among the top 10 on those rankings, while two baseball players took up the other spots.

“The NBA players union has failed to protect the rights of the top players in the league,” agent Arn Tellem said. “Collective bargaining has proved totally ineffectual.”

It might help matters if the National Basketball Players Association were able to fill its vacant executive director position. They missed out on another target for the post when Blazers president Larry Miller turned them down, as Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reported this weekend. While we wait to see who they wind up with, here’s more from the NBA:

Central Notes: Augustin, Bulls, Cavs, Thompson

Tonight’s look at the Central Division as the Pistons get set to take on the Wizards and the Bulls travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies..

  • Mark Deeks of ShamSports.com confirms (via Twitter) that D.J. Augustin’s contract with the Bulls is fully non-guaranteed and is just a one-year deal.  James Johnson’s contract with the Grizzlies is also a one-year, non-guaranteed pact worth the minimum salary.
  • The Cavs nearly traded for Klay Thompson on draft night in 2011, a source tells Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal.  Cleveland GM Chris Grant was trying frantically to add a third top ten pick in that 2011 draft to make it happen.  Former coach Byron Scott told Lloyd months later it was the night he really came to believe Grant knew what he was doing and was the right man for the job.
  • More from Lloyd, who adds that the Cavs talked to the Kings about a deal involving J.J. Hickson for the No. 7 pick, but the Kings ultimately dealt the pick in a different deal and the Cavs sent Hickson to the Kings after the draft for Omri Casspi and a future pick.  Then the Cavs had a deal in place with the Jazz for the No. 12 pick, but the Warriors snatched Thompson at No. 11. The Jazz ultimately backed out of the deal with the Cavs and nabbed shooting guard Alec Burks.

Western Rumors: Kings, Martin, Bledsoe

Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro said the lack of extensions for Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson and the team’s decision to decline its fourth-year option on Jimmer Fredette aren’t necessarily a reflection of the way the club feels about those players.

“With Jimmer, we spoke to him and his representatives throughout the process,” D’Alessandro said, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee observes. “And they’re not easy decisions to make. We have these deadlines that are at an awkward time, Oct. 31, especially at a time when we just got our positions here.”

We heard earlier that the Kings are enamored with Vasquez and intend to match any offer he gets in restricted free agency this summer. Here’s more on free agents past and future, with a Western kick: