May 1, 2008
The writing may be the wall for JJ Hickson. As
NC State fans people who genuinely want to see JJ Hickson maximize his earnings and succeed for years to come; we can only hope that the young man is mature enough to ‘read the wall’ objectively ans execute the kind of decision-making-skills needed to insure a bright future for the young man.
Before the recent onslaught of announcements by dozens of highly rated underclassment, Hickson was projected by many to be a second round draft choice in this summer’s NBA Draft. The impact of all of these underclassment has certainly not helped Hickson’s cause.
A recent spate of articles from various pundits all echo an indentical sentiment – JJ Hickson definitely needs to come back to school for at least one more year. And these articles aren’t just ‘throw away’ mentions; Hickson’s decision to potentially leave early is being specifically identified as one of the biggest mistakes of all of the early decisions.
Just this week ESPN’s Chad Ford said:
I love Hickson’s game, but the draft is so crowded. He’d be better off going back to school, dominating for a year and then testing the waters as a sophomore.
Of course, any and all of this ‘guidance’ may be irrelevant if JJ is committed to entering the NBA Draft come hell or high water…and, that seems to be the case. The comments under JJ’s name on CBS Sportsline’s tracking of the early entrants says:
Nobody was in more of a hurry to get to the NBA than this guy.
IMHO, the real crux of the issue for Hickson should have much more to do with his potential longetivity in the NBA – and therefore long term earning power – than his ability to make some money as early as possible.
Wolfpackers probably recognize this ‘balance’ more than most fan bases based on recent developments in career of Cedric Simmons. After being ‘projected’ to be drafted closer to #10, Simmons was selected HIGHER than Hickson is projected at a solid #15 just two years ago. Simmons was projected to be such a solid choice that the Hornets’ draft received rave reviews. (See how these ‘projections’ work out?)
Simmons is now on his third NBA roster in just two years. As #15 draft selection in 2006 he by-passed significant developmental, practice and playing experiences over the last two years in exchange for starting in four games and appearing in only 57 games. To this point in his career Simmons has played in less than 600 minutes of NBA games. By contrast, JJ Hickson played almost 900 minutes in his first collegiate season.
It should be noted that Simmons has dealt with some injuries since joining the league. But that is part of the risk of jumping to the league before your skills are ready just as the risk of getting injured in college is always cited.
The injuries caused Big Ced to spend time in the NBA’s Developmental League in Iowa to help him rehabilitate and get into shape (since NBA teams don’t practice enough for young players to get into shape or develop) A ‘pro’ basketball stint in Iowa surely was not on the radar for any potential lottery pick coming out of college. That had to suck. But, when you don’t get significant playing time in the NBA because you are young and still developing, how else do you get the chance to shake off the rust?
Unfortunately, these developments seem to indicate that Simmons is already evolving into the part of “NBA Journeyman”. Guess what? NBA Journeymen don’t make tens of millions of dollars. They also don’t make it in the league long enough to make that kind of money because there are always dozens of ‘youngsters’ coming out early who are a little younger and may have just enough ‘potential’.
As a player in the NBA you have one of two different abilities that are valuable to a franchise: (1) you contribute, or (2) you have potential. If you ‘fall in the bucket of ‘having potential’ then you better get yourself into the contributing category as fast as you can who those youngsters quickly take your spot on the end of the bench.
In the NBA, youngsters who are bench players early in their career – as big men often are – rarely develop their game as they would in college because of the limited practice schedule. Due to the 82-game schedule, NBA squads travel and play games much more than they practice. Therefore, the opportunity for young players with ‘potential’ to develop in truly competitive environments is limited. Ultimately, these kids make a few million bucks in their first three years and then their ability to make tens of millions of dollars for the money for the next decade is significantly impaired.
Of course, there is always the risk of ‘injury’ even if the frequency of career ending injuries in basketball is exceptionally low. This is why insurance policies exist. Insurance proceeds certainly won’t make-up the difference in tens of millions of dollars through a career that lasts more than a decade; but, we aren’t talking about someone who is currently projected or guaranteed that kind of career to begin with. Look at Big Ced to see how early-career injuries in the NBA can create equal risk on your future.
The best route to achieving a long-term career and the exceptional pay-day that comes with it just may require the ‘risk’ of another developmental year in college for JJ Hickson. Whatever his ultimate decision, we would all want nothing more than to see an unlimited amount of success for the young man.
Parting shot – From the NC State perspective, if JJ Hickson were to return for his sophomore season, I truly believe that the Wolfpack could be just as big of a surprise in 2008-2009 as we were a disappointment in 2007-2008. Only time will tell…but the pieces are there for signficant improvement as long as the team can remain relatively healthy.
Updated May 7th
Hickson’s decision ranked one of the five worst in all of college basketball by rivals.com. (Isn’t “The Wolfpacker” part of Rivals.com? Just curious…how do the Wolfpack Club and Athletics Department NOT view such an article as ‘negative’ like they do SFN? All we are doing is reporting what they are saying…yet WE are ‘negative’?!)
F J.J. Hickson, N.C. State
Stats: 14.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg
If given the choice, you never want to go into the draft with your stock slipping. That is the case with Hickson, a 6-9 freshman. He got off to an impressive start, averaging 16.5 points per game in November and December. But that dropped to 12.5 in conference play. The Wolfpack’s struggles didn’t help, either. They lost their last nine games and finished with more losses (16) than wins (15). Hickson is projected as a borderline first-round pick, but if he stays in school and makes some improvements, he will be a first-round lock next year.