Hickson was one of the top players at the Las Vegas Summer League, and turned in one of the most significant performances in terms of what we can expect from him next season. He finished as the 6th ranked scorer and produced at roughly the same rate he did at this event in 2008, while leading the Cavaliers to a 3-1 record. Though Hickson still has a number of areas to improve upon, he showed a significantly more versatile skill set than what we saw from last season.
Throughout the 2010 regular season, Hickson proved to be a nice compliment to Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James, taking advantage of the easy opportunities at the rim and finishing in the top-25 League-wide in FG%, but showing only a few flashes of one-on-on scoring ability. With James, O'Neal, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas headed elsewhere, Hickson will be called upon to take his game to the next level and become more than a catch-and-finish, complimentary power forward. Based on what we saw in Vegas, it is clear that the North Carolina State product is taking that call to heart, showing improvements in his individual skills and committing himself to the up-tempo style of play Byron Scott will be bring to Northeast Ohio this fall.
From the opening tip of Cleveland's first game, Hickson's intentions were clear; he wanted to showcase his jump shot and continue developing it in a game setting. Over the course of the week, Hickson showed the ability to step out to the perimeter and make shots, a quality his game desperately lacked last season. His touch and confidence are noticeably improved, and the time he's spent in the gym this summer has allowed him to develop a nice shooting rhythm. Though he certainly forced some shots with a hand in his face and needs to improve the consistency of his release point, he made some difficult face-up jumpers from 15-feet, knocked down a few catch and shoot jumpers NCAA three-point range, flashed a one-dribble pull-up, and was one of the few bright-spots for the Cavaliers in an otherwise troubling offseason.
In addition to his jump shot, Hickson displayed an improved floor game, looking more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and appearing a bit more decisive in the post. He has a nice first step for a player his size, and his big frame allows him to use spin moves effectively in the paint. He still has a lot to prove when it comes to creating his own shot and knocking down jumpers on the NBA level, but he's made obvious progress in some areas.
Hickson didn't show much that we didn't already know about him on the defensive end. He's still too eager to leave his feet and is prone to getting beat with double-moves as he tends to over commit when he's beat, but his wingspan, strength, and energy level, help him compensate for some of his mistakes.
On the whole, Hickson made quite an impression with his athletic play in transition and improved scoring arsenal, promising signs for one of Cleveland's best long-term assets. An early candidate for the Most Improved Player award, Hickson's usage should allow him to have a productive season, and he could put up great numbers if he continues to improve and adjusts to Byron Scott's offense quickly.