It is all too easy to dismiss the quality production of a player on a lottery team as being the direct product of it. It is also way too commonplace to do so. Hickson is the victim of this – his 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds in only 29 minutes per game is invariably tempered by comments about Portland’s 33-49 record and Hickson’s own flaws (including, but certainly not limited to, his own inconsistent defensive rebounding abilities masked by that RPG figure).
Doing so, however, is a default position we seem to subliminally take when it comes to players who don’t acquiesce to our standards for the ‘fundamentals’. Averaging a double double in less than 30 minutes per game, on a 59 percent true shooting percentage, is incredibly good, however flawed it is. Hickson is an elite offensive rebounder and quality finisher, who has improved his shot selection and thus his efficiency, making him a highly effective weapon who can both win and finish possessions.
It is nonetheless true that holes in his game not readily measured by statistics – almost all of which come on the defensive end – do affect his overall impact on the game despite his laudable basic statistics. But if these holes didn’t exist, Hickson would be a $12 million player. As it is, he’s a $5 million one coming off a highly productive season in which he showed continued improvement to his game. That, then, is a good price to pay. And whilst concerns about the duplicity between him, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee are legitimate, stockpiling talent at affordable prices is the way a good-but-not-great team should be headed.
You can sign a player of Arthur's calibre much more easily than one of Koufos'. This is a market in which, for example, Tyler Hansbrough signed for one guaranteed year at a shade over $3 million, a highly comparable player on a highly comparable contract available without needing to lose a starting center. Indeed, Denver knows the power forward market well after having themselves made a splash in it this summer - despite trading for Arthur, they subsequently threw three years and $16.15 million at J.J. Hickson. If they needed a power forward, free agency could have addressed it. Alternatively, the Nuggets could have not looked outside at all, and instead relied upon the enigmatic but hugely talented Anthony Randolph to fill the small backup power forward hole - unreliable as he may be, Randolph needs the opportunity to succeed, or he never will.
The point here is that, even if starter Kenneth Faried does indeed go on to be traded, Koufos did not need to be. In light of the stress fracture McGee has just suffered that rules him out indefinitely, the once great center depth is now a position of weakness for the Nuggets, with Mozgov being the only healthy player at the position. Hickson might go some way to fill this void, but Koufos definitely would, yet he was moved for a player whose role could have and should have been filled by the player they subsequently signed or the player they already had. As third choice power forward, Arthur ranks 12th on the team in minutes per game - when a fringe starting center under the age of 25 tied down to a tiny $3 million contract is traded, it is imperative that he returns much more than that.
Note: Non-US teams that the player
has played for are, unless stated otherwise, from the top division in
that nation. If a league or division name is expressly stated, it's not
the top division. The only exceptions to this are the rare occasions where
no one league is said to be above the other, such as with the JBL/BJ League
split in Japan.