Rarely does an NBA trade hang over the head of franchise like the J.J. Hickson deal. In June of 2011, the Sacramento Kings sent Omri Casspi and a protected pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Hickson. Hickson didn’t even make it through the 2011-12 NBA season before being waived, but the protected pick has followed the Kings like a dark shadow ever since.
At first glance, it didn’t look like a bad deal. Hickson was an up and coming 22-year-old big ready to break out. Casspi was a young role player and the protections on the pick kept it out of the Cavs hands as long as the Kings weren’t a playoff team.
The hope was that Hickson, along with young cornerstones Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, would help deliver the Kings back to the postseason after a year or two together.
Years later, the Kings are still searching for the magic pill to catapult them back to the playoffs and that pick is finally going away.
Per the original deal, the first round selection was protected for picks 1-14 in 2012, 1-13 in 2013, 1-12 in 2014 and 1-10 in 2015, 2016 and 2017. If the pick was not conveyed during 2017, it instantly became a 2017 second round selection, completing the transaction.
Six years the pick has hampered the Kings’ ability to make moves. Due to the NBA’s “Stepien Rule,” team’s aren’t allowed to trade back-to-back picks. With it unknown whether Sacramento would have the rights to their selection in 2012-2017, they weren’t able to use picks as assets in deals until 2019 (the 2019 pick is a story for another day).
Hickson, still just 28-years-old, is out of the league and playing in China. He never reached his potential, spending time in Portland, Denver and Washington before exiting the NBA. He played in just 35 games in a Kings uniform during the 2011-12 season. When it was clear the team had no takers at the trade deadline, Sacramento bit the bullet and waived him.
Casspi went on to play two seasons in Cleveland and a year in Houston before returning to Sacramento for the previous three seasons. He was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during All-Star weekend, along with Cousins, but broke a thumb in his first game. He was waived and then signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves where he completed the 2016-17 season.
With the Kings finishing at 32-50, the NBA’s eighth worst record this season, the statistical probability of three teams jumping past them into the top three selections in the draft is nearly impossible.
If they avoid falling out of the top 10, as expected, they will send their 2017 second round selection to the Chicago Bulls (who received the Kings pick via trade in 2014), ending one of the longest running transactions in recent memory.
Three general managers, six different head coaches, an ownership change and a new arena have all happened in Sacramento since the Hickson/Casspi trade. Barring a catastrophe May 16 during the draft lottery, this deal will finally be put to rest.