Center A.J. Hammons is a big-bodied seven footer that scored down in the low post at Purdue and blocked shots at an impressive rate. But can the Indiana native contribute for the Dallas Mavericks in his first season?
It is rare that rookies, especially second rounders and big men such as Hammons, contribute significantly for their teams in their rookie season. Last year’s rookie Justin Anderson was brought along slowly and took off during the playoffs and if Hammons took a similar route in his development Dallas should be ecstatic because big men traditionally take longer to develop.
With that said, Hammons is a strong and physical center who weighs at least 250 pounds. Just based on his frame the Mavs should not be afraid to throw the twenty-three-year old into an NBA game. As Jonathan Tjarks noted in his piece for The Ringer, Hammons especially held his own against other players who have NBA-level talent.
The Smoking Cuban takes a look at what A.J. Hammons can provide for the Mavericks next season and beyond:
On offense, Hammons is especially impressive in the paint. He finishes really well around the rim and shot over 80 percent from close range last season. At Purdue, Hammons displayed a knack for finishing not only on dunks but also from the midrange and on the block with some nifty post moves. With a 70 percent conversion rate on free-throws the Mavericks don’t have to be afraid of “Hack-a-Hammons” either.
Although Hammons played in a pretty cramped offense at Purdue that featured a lot of big men and few shooters, the 7-footer displayed some pick-and-roll ability that should really blossom in Dallas as long as the Mavs space the floor with Dirk Nowitzki.
Above, Hammons catches his defender unaware and slips the screen. With the Dirk and the Mavs spacing the floor, the 7-footer will probably have much more space to operate in the pick-and-roll and will definitely get his chances on offense.
While passing out of the post is not one of his noted strengths, Hammons did display the vision to pass to open shooters out on the perimeter from the low block.
To be sure, it is unlikely that Hammons will contribute significantly on offense next season. If he plays, he probably won’t get as many touches as he did at Purdue, but the early indications are that Hammons should be able to contribute offensively with time.
On defense, the Mavericks should be hopeful that the Indiana-native can contribute positively right from the start. After selecting notorious shot-blocker Justin Anderson last year, Dallas selected another big-time swatter in this year’s draft.
The twenty-three year old blocked more than 2 shots per game all four seasons that he played in college and provided highlights such as the one above and below.
Despite his size and weight, Dallas new center has pretty good footwork on the defensive end. Against Denzel Valentine and the Michigan Spartan’s Hammons impressed with some good pick-and-roll defense followed by a help-side block.
Below is another good example of Hammons warding off the penetration, then recovering to prevent his opponent from finishing and finally rejecting the shot attempt.
Hammons does a good job here not fouling, which in general hasn’t been a problem for him as he averaged around 2.5 fouls per game for his college career. Altogether Hammons does a nice job patrolling the paint, if he sits back in the pick-and-roll on defense, he should be able to help the Mavs right away.
That said, the 7-footer will obviously have to adjust to the speed of the NBA game and will struggle in the early going of his rookie campaign – especially recovering in pick-and-roll coverage out on the perimeter – but there is plenty to look forward to in the game of the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks and if nothing else, the Purdue Boilermaker will surely make some highlights with his shot-blocking ability next season.
Down the line, Hammons could develop into a capable starter for the Mavericks. Although the low-post scoring center has pretty much become extinct in today’s NBA, there is no reason to believe that a center who blocks shots and can finish at the rim as well as Hammons has a permanent place in the league.