There’s never been a question about J.J. Hickson’s remarkable talent and athleticism. Still, the 23-year-old power forward has struggled to find his footing in the NBA, frustrating teams with his lack of basketball knowledge and execution of the fundamentals.
Hickson, who was bought out by the Sacramento Kings Monday after averaging a mere 4.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in just 35 games, has garnered interest from the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns.
Hickson’s unfulfilled potential in the early portion of his young career has made him an enigma of sorts.
“J.J. will blow you away in a workout,” ESPN.com writer Brian Windhorst told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Tuesday. “He’s so athletically gifted. He’s probably one of the top ten leapers in the NBA. It’s just remarkable.”
Despite his jaw-dropping showings in practice, Hickson hasn’t been able to translate those skills into success on the court.
“Unfortunately, in the four years in the league, he hasn’t learned to play the game very well,” Windhorst said. “We see this with players all the time.”
Windhorst believes Suns guard Shannon Brown is an example of a player who was also slow to make an impact in the NBA. Brown was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers when now-Suns’ General Manager Lance Blanks was part of the Cavs’ brass.
“Shannon Brown was an absolute freak athlete,” Windhorst explained. “It took him 3-to-4 teams to learn how to play. When he finally learned how to play and learned what his role was going to be; now he’s a legitimate player in the NBA having a career.”
Hickson seems to be suffering the same growing pains that once hindered Brown.
“That’s where J.J. is right now,” Windhorst stated. “He hasn’t learned to play the game. His basketball I.Q. is not his strong suit and that frustrates teams. He will get another chance or two, but it’s going to take some patience with him.”
Windhorst believes the Suns could be an ideal landing spot for Hickson, despite reports suggesting the Warriors are the frontrunners to land the youngster.
“I think Lance Blanks knows the same thing he knew about Shannon Brown when he brought him to Phoenix,” Windhorst said. “He’s an athlete who’s learned how to play, and I think Lance would think that giving J.J. an opportunity to learn how to play in the great environment that the Suns have — I can understand why they are interested in him.”
The Suns considered drafting Hickson with their 15th pick in the 2008 NBA draft, before opting to select Robin Lopez from the University of Stanford. Blanks also has a long-standing history with Hickson when he served on the Cavaliers staff that ended up drafting the power forward 19th overall in the ’08 draft.