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Inside J.J. Hickson's Disastrous Start in Sacramento

It's no secret with Cavaliers fans that Omri Casspi has really struggled in his time with the organization thus far. He's underwhelmed in all facets of the game but it's not like I expected too much from him. Overall when it happened I would have said the swap of J.J. Hickson for Casspi straight up would be a low impact trade but when you include the fact that the Cavaliers also got a first round pick out of the deal it looked better on our end.

As a reminder, here are the protections on the pick received from the Kings:

It is just lottery protected in 2012. The pick is then protected in 2013 (1-13), 2014 (1-12) and 2015-2017 (1-10). If the pick is not conveyed by 2017, then Sacramento will convey its 2017 second-round draft pick to the Cavaliers protected (56-60.)

I submitted some questions to Rob (section214) from Sactown Royalty, SBNation's Kings blog, and he politely and promptly answered me with some insightful feedback.

Read what he had to say about Hickson's days in California after the jump.

John: After having a mild breakout last season Hickson has been one of the most dreadful regression stories this season. What has been behind his massive struggles and awful shooting numbers?

Rob: Inconsistent playing time has probably been his biggest enemy. If Hickson were starting or even logging consistent minutes, I'm sure that his shooting and overall play would be a bit better. That said, he has earned his spot in the rotation as the 4th big, as DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes have all been better than J.J.. He has shown a dreadful pair of hands, and he appears to be less aware of the team's offensive and defensive schemes than his counterparts.

John: The stigma surrounding the Kings is they have no discipline. We all know J.J. needs guidance. How has he meshed with the coaching staff and has his attitude changed since his arrival in Sacramento?

Rob: His attitude has been a non-issue, but when you have DeMarcus Cousins at the forefront, you'd probably have to go on a three-state killing spree to be called out for your attitude. This being the youngest team in the NBA (the roster averaged a little over 24 years in age at the beginning of the season), the coaching change that took place seven games into the season upended everyone, though it seems to be yielding benefits now, especially in the play of Tyreke Evans, Cousins and Thompson. Hickson has not really seen any benefit from the coaching change. To his credit, he has played very hard whenever his number has been called.

John: Is there actually a future for him for the Kings? He certainly doesn't seem to be playing himself into their plans.

Rob: This depends a bit on Jason Thompson. The Kings are committed to Cousins and Chuck Hayes (they just signed Hayes to a 5 year, $21m contract). They did not extend either Thompson or Hickson, so both will be restricted free agents next year. I could see the Kings dealing one of these guys to a contender for a late 1st round pick if offered (I doubt that Hickson would fetch that right now, but Thompson might), or waiting to see what these guys get offered after the season and going from there.

The overall book on Hickson right now is that he is probably possesses the best athleticism of any of the big men, but his hands and his decision making (especially on the offensive end) are negatives. Kings fans would shrug their shoulders on the Casspi/Hickson trade if were not for the eventual 1st round pick that was thrown in. At this point, most Kings fans see the deal as a terrible trade for the Kings.

Through 29 games, Hickson is averaging 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. His FG% and PER are both at career lows at 38.6 and 10.8 respectively. In 27 games Casspi is averaging 7.9 points and 3.1 boards, both career lows. His percentages and most of his other numbers have also declined sharply.

A big thanks again to Rob for his help on this article.

With neither player really making much of an impact on his squad so far, the wild card is the pick the Cavaliers will have whenever the Kings are just good enough to give it to us.

Finally, during the writing process I came across some more data via FTS member mondaynighttebow which further backs Hickson's disaster in Sacramento. I like his link because it does a nice job of putting all of his advanced stats in year-by-year form so it is easy to see how much he's regressed. I specifically notice all of the FG% and True Shooting % numbers taking a monster turn for the worse.