With the No. 46 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks have selected A.J. Hammons out of Purdue, a true seven footer with athleticism and skill.
Hammons weighs 250 pounds while standing 7'0, averaging 2.5 blocks per game at Purdue while scoring 15 points. He has touch around the basket and a decent mid-range game, even if his play showed up somewhat inconsistently. Hammons' biggest downside is his age -- as a four-year senior, he's already 23.
The Mavericks did not have their first round pick after trading it as part of the Rajon Rondo trade two Decembers ago, limited only to a second rounder.
Hammons has the potential to be a legitimate NBA center. He moves well for a player of his size and does an excellent job of using his body to ward off defenders. After watching Zaza Pachulia grind into dust last season, Hammons should be a breath of fresh air. His size really does pop out when watching his highlights.
Outside of his age, Hammons slipped in the draft due to concerns about his effort and attitude. That's the type of concern that can land a rookie in Rick Carlisle's rookie dungeon. Hammons will have to eliminate all the questions about his effort to see the floor, but the former Purdue Boilermaker definitely has the skill to stay on the floor.
"I just talked to him on the phone and he sounded pretty energetic to me," Rick Carlisle told media shortly after the selection. "When you only have the 46th pick in the draft you gotta get lucky and you gotta have some guys slip. Perceptions about guys facilitate them dropping lower than they should and those perceptions probably facilitated 46. Now it's our job to make sure he has a long and productive NBA career."
Hammon's jumper will go a long way in extending his career. The big man has touch all the way out to 20 feet (he attempted 11 threes his senior year, making six) and the mechanics on his jumper look really smooth. The Mavericks know a thing or two about seven footers who can shoot, so it will be interesting to watch that portion of Hammonds' game grow.
"I'm pretty liberal about getting big guys who can shoot jump shots if they can shoot," Carlisle said, implying Dallas will allow him to be aggressive in that area.
The Mavericks really have a gem in Hammons. He has real first round talent, something Carlisle and Donnie Nelson both emphasized, but it will take the winning infrastructure in place to ensure Hammons reaches his potential. We've railed on the Mavericks draft strategy the last few seasons, but they've done as well as they possibly could with this pick.
After all, like Carlisle said, "Skilled big men aren't growing on trees."