There is a lot of fan resistance to the Trail Blazers making a move to trade JJ Hickson. The fans love him, he plays hard and he's performed admirably as an undersized center this season for Portland. But there is some evidence, granted based on a small sample size, that Portland could do OK without him.
The website 82games.com keeps track of how teams fare with all different lineups and it's interesting to see how Portland has done to this point of the season with the different units Terry Stotts has put on the floor. Obviously, the starting group of Batum, Matthews, Aldridge, Lillard and Hickson has played the most minutes together -- a whopping 682.9. But on the season, that group has been outscored by nine points -- a -9 in the plus-minus system.
But the third-most used group for the season, with Leonard at center instead of Hickson and the other four starters intact, has played 88.2 minutes together and is a plus-11. But the most successful five-man group the Trail Blazers have used -- albeit for just 40.1 minutes -- is those same four starters with Luke Babbitt instead of Hickson. In 40.1 minutes, that group has outscored opponents by 45 points!
Yes, I know. Small sample size. Not a lot of minutes. But I know what I see, too, aside from the stats. And I know when Babbitt plays with the starters, good things have happened -- and not necessarily because Babbitt has made shots. The thing about Babbitt is that he's earned enough respect as a shooter that teams are now extending their defense as far out as he lines up to shoot. And sometimes that's very far out. Thus, he opens the floor for other players.
I guess the point of all this is that it will be interesting to see, later in the year, if Leonard and/or Babbitt get more opportunity to play with the other four, what will happen. And it may not be as bleak as you think.