Houston Rockets Draft Prospect Series: A.J. Hammons

Mar 12, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Purdue Boilermakers center A.J. Hammons (20) dunks against Michigan Wolverines forward Mark Donnal (34) during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Purdue defeats Michigan 76-59. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 12, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Purdue Boilermakers center A.J. Hammons (20) dunks against Michigan Wolverines forward Mark Donnal (34) during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Purdue defeats Michigan 76-59. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Rockets Draft Prospect Center A.J. Hammons is exactly what Daryl Morey should be looking for in the 2015-16 NBA Draft

The Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is choosing to give Dwight Howard his space to make his own decision on pending free agency, in a recent interview with Yahoo’s own Adrian Wojnarowski:

You want answers @houstonrockets fans, & @WojVerticalNBA is the man for the job!!! Woj. interviews @dmorey https://t.co/FhxwIWPhYp

— Curtlow!!! (@SWHTown30) June 10, 2016

Do The Houston Rockets Need A Backup Center?

Howard made a special stipulation in his four year contract with the Rockets. In the third year Howard has the option to opt into his contract that is set to pay him $23 million or test the market.

With the new (NBA) TV deals set to take place in 2016-17 season, the salary cap is about to sky rocket from approximately $70 million to almost $92 million dollars. Which means players are about to get paid!

Per the NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the average salary for players is about to increase from $5.5 million to $7 million. Howard has a tough decision to make. Do I opt out of $23 million for an 30 year old aging/injured center who has lived off athleticism, playing 112 games out of a possible 164 games in the last two years, and who has averaged a disappointing 13.7 points per game (lowest PPG since his rookie year), 11.8 rebounds per game (3rd lowest of his twelve year career), and 1.3 blocks per game (lowest of his career) this year.

Morey also has a tough decision, if Howard decides to opt out of his contract that leaves the tallest Rockets player on the roster at 6’10 (Clint Capela) and only one true center at the five position.

The marriage seems to be over and it seems best for both parties to move on. Look for Morey to draft a backup center in this year draft to assist Capela at the center position. My guess is Morey won’t be waiting on Howard’s call and Howard’s agent will look for other suitors, especially with the hiring of Mike D’Antoni.

The Rockets Own The 37th Pick In The 2016 Draft

At the end of the day the Rockets need a back-up center and here is a sleeper in this upcoming draft:

A.J. Hammons 2015-16 NCAA Season

A.J. Hammons Strengths

At seven foot 260 pounds, Hammons is a monster! Notice the spectacular player efficient rating. Hammons PER ranked 10th in the NCAA and 1st in the Big Ten Conference.  Hammons spent 4 years at Purdue and the transformation from his junior year to his senior year just can’t be ignored.

2014-15 NCAA Season:

  • Minutes Per Game 24.3
  • Points Per Game 11.9
  • Rebounds Per Game 6.6
  • Blocks Per Game 2.8
  • Offensive Rating 107.3
  • Defensive Rating 92.7

2015-16 NCAA Season:

  • Minutes Per Game 24.6
  • Points Per Game 15.0
  • Rebounds Per Game 8.2 (Ranked 4th in the Big Ten Conference)
  • Blocks Per Game 2.5 (Ranked 1st in the Big Ten Conference)
  • Offensive Rating 117.7
  • Defensive Rating 88.7 (Ranked 1st in the Big Ten Conference)

Since Hammons is playing college basketball and playing less minutes, let’s take a look at the minutes per 40:

Per 40 Minutes:

  • Points Per Game 24.3
  • Rebounds Per Game 13.3
  • Blocks Per Game 4.1

Now that’s impressive! Hammons has an excellent post up game and emerged into a stretch five center his senior year with Purdue. The D’Antoni system is predicated on playing a stretch center which is the main reason why Howard is probably gone this summer.

Hammons knocked down 6 out of 11 three’s for 54.5%. Granted, you might say that’s not a lot three’s taken for a season, but the previous three seasons Hammons was 0 for 12.  This is a sign of the times as the NCAA is showing signs of adapting to the NBA style of play on offense. Specifically, more teams are using half the shot clock and jacking up a lot of three’s. To wit, Hammons has revamped his game to incorporate the long ball.

A.J. Hammons Weakness

More from Space City Scoop

Hammons lateral movement and reaction time is slow. It takes rookies a lot of time to catch up to the speed of the NBA game. Hammons will struggle for 1 to 2 years to adjust to the speed of the game and players.

Also Hammons motor and work ethic has been questioned specifically when Hammons gets lazy on defense. I have to say, Hammons defensive awareness is average to below average.

I hate to say this, but Hammons at times has the feel of a Javale McGee in that he gets lost at times on defense. Hammons also struggles with double teams out of the post.

Per 40 minutes, throughout his four year career at Purdue he averaged 3.4 turnovers per game. Those are major red flags. Hammons work ethic and motor can be fixed over time, but his defensive awareness can’t be taught.

The Fit

Morey needs to be focused on getting a back-up center in this draft and Hammons fits the bill as a value pick at 37 in the 2nd round.

Do you believe Capela will be the potential starter come opening day? Should Morey draft A.J. Hammons? Share your thoughts.

Should the @HoustonRockets general manager @dmorey be eyeing a back-up center in the draft?

— Curtlow!!! (@SWHTown30) June 12, 2016

Make sure you check out the current Space City Scoop series including the rest of our year end player analysis, draft prospects worthy of Rockets picking or trading for, our best of reader/fan posts  and our end of season Rockets Round Table:

Next: Complete list of 2016 -2017 Free Agents

Next: Rockets Fans Speak - the Series

Space City Scoop is always looking to add new talent to our writing team. Currently we’re looking for individuals with a specialized focus. The first area of focus is perfect for someone who is constantly surfing the web for breaking news on injuries, trades, insider info etc. This individual would select the top news items and provide timely quick hits to keep SCS readers in the loop.

The other area of focus is someone who possesses a strong social media background who likes to interact with Clutch City Fans. You’ll promote SCS team content on facebook and twitter while also making sure to promote the best content coming from H-Town fans. If you have this capability and are interested check out this link and fill out an application.