For about a decade now, the Dallas Mavericks have admittedly not prioritized the NBA Draft, and it has hurt them as they’ve scrambled yearly to cobble a roster together, while not gaining assets that could potentially be developed into long-term, solid players.
That philosophy started to change last year, however, with the selection of Justin Anderson. Sure, they still wasted the 52nd pick last year by choosing Satnam Singh – as a favor to agent Dan Fegan – in the ill-fated pursuit of DeAndre Jordan, but their new “development” philosophy continued on last night with the selection of Purdue center A.J. Hammons with the 46th pick.
When Anderson was chosen with the 21st pick overall, he was a three-year player and a two-year starter on a highly successful Virginia team that reached the #1 ranking in the nation during the season. He was raw for sure, and remains so on some levels today, but he was there to be developed. And developed he was, to the point that when called upon by Rick Carlisle to move into a more prominent role in the last nine games of the season- with a playoff spot in the balance – he was ready to perform.
Hammons was a four-year player at Purdue, a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and a first-team All Big Ten selection this past year. So why would a big man like Hammons, with all those accolades and a skill set that includes a nice face up jumper out to 15 feet, a good drop step, excellent rebounding and shot blocking, not be in the lottery?
Or at least somewhere in the first round?
Well, when you get to #46 there are always some warts, and the biggest in Hammons’ case is his motor – or lack thereof. Earlier in his career Hammons often times had to have a fire lit under him by his coaches (less so now, but it’s still an issue). It’s not an uncommon issue with “bigs” but it’s still an issue.
Just how much do you want to be a really good player? How hard are you willing to work to accomplish it? Only Hammons can answer those questions.
Another “knock” on Hammons is he’ll be 24-years-old when the season begins. NBA scouts have always hated “age” for some reason. They love to talk about the “upside” of a young player, while looking down on older players coming out of school as juniors and seniors. Honestly, the only thing that should matter to a scout are the three magic words, “Can he play?”
Hammons for his part seems to have found himself as a player during his last two years in West Lafayette. He’s spent more time in the gym and he’s done the little things like cutting fast food from his diet. Basically he seems to finally understand what a fantastic opportunity lies in front of him – at least Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson hope he does.
And when Hammons sees players like Dirk, Justin, and Dwight Powell – who are all first-in, last-out of the gym kind of guys – you hope their attitudes, mindsets and work ethics will rub off on him even more. If it does, the Mavericks may have indeed found that diamond in the rough that everyone in the NBA wants, but few ever find.