Ranking AJ Hammons' Fit With Every NBA Team

Ranking AJ Hammons' Fit With Every NBA Team

Yesterday, I posted a 3,000 word deep dive on AJ Hammons’ NBA profile, his strengths and weaknesses on the court, NBA comparisons, and lots of video clips. If you love AJ as much as I do, or if your NBA team just drafted the big man and you’re curious, go ahead and give that a read.

Here, the Boiled Sports Committee of One (spoiler: it me) rates Hammons’ fit with each NBA team, starting with pick 29 and going through the second round, plus the teams who don’t have picks but might trade into the second round for a rim protecting center.

Quick note: I think AJ’s ceiling is the Spurs at pick 29, though I’m sure Toronto at #27 and Phoenix at #28 are thinking about him.

Categories were:

  • ·         Offensive Fit and Defensive Fit (1 being worst, 5 being best)
  • ·         Coaching Staff Development (1 worst, 5 best)
  • ·         Pressure to Produce: (1 being tons of pressure, 5 being pretty chill)

 

Let’s get this thing going:

5 Best Fits for AJ Hammons:

Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz, Charlotte Hornets

5 Worst Fits for AJ Hammons:

Philadelphia 76ers, LA Clippers, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder

 

#29: San Antonio Spurs                                 Fit Score: 14/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 3

This might actually be a pretty generous ranking for the Spurs, who already have a glut of big men (even with the departure of David West) and desperately need wing athleticism. Though AJ would be a great within their scheme, and give them some rim protection to go along with LaMarcus Aldridge’s…well…not rim protection…or when we sits. As for the low coaching score, nobody cycles heartlessly through role players quite like Greg Popovich. So even though Pop is the best basketball the NBA has ever seen, I don’t see this as a great fit for AJ.

 

#30: Golden State Warriors                        Fit Score: 13/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 1

On paper, Hammons and the Warriors are a perfect match. Andrew Bogut is getting older, Festus Ezeli wasn’t the same after a midseason surgery, and they need to make this rookie scale contract count as they try to resign their core (or go after Kevin Durant). Steve Kerr’s staff, especially if assistant coach Jarron Collins returns, could be a fantastic spot for AJ to grow. But the pressure to produce, particularly if Ezeli leaves and Bogut is their only other center, is immense. This would be a fun, but dangerous, spot for Hammons.

 

#31, 35, 45, 51, 58: Boston Celtics             Fit Score: 18/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 5

Coaching Staff Development: 5

Pressure to Produce: 4

Aah, the wizard Brad Stevens. Boston desperately needs a rim protector, AJ needs a stable coaching situation, and Boston has a zillion picks. Odds are high that Boston trades away a handful of these picks, but the few that they keep need to work out. I think AJ is a really safe center prospect for Boston at 31, 35, or 45, and Stevens is really familiar with Hammons’ work. Offensive creativity really hampered AJ’s ability to space the floor, and that won’t be a concern for the boy wizard Stevens. This might be the best fit on the board.

 

#32: Los Angeles Lakers                                                Fit Score: 14/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 3

Listen, I know. It’s borderline criminal to rank the Lakers and Spurs with similar scores. But the Lakers are bringing in Luke Walton, who seems to be taking his cues from Steve Kerr and will assuredly bring in an experienced coaching staff and a much-improved atmosphere. AJ’s potential role as a rim protector behind Julius Randle is actually pretty perfect, and pairing him with Brandon Ingram’s (hopefully) aggressive perimeter defense could be an exciting young core for the rebuilding Lakers.

 

#33: Los Angeles Clippers                            Fit Score: 9/20

Offensive fit: 2, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 1

Pressure to Produce: 2

Please no. Doc Rivers is notorious for nailing rookies to the bench, and even though the Clippers could use a backup rim protector for DeAndre Jordan, I think this would be an awful landing spot for Hammons. Purdue fans are familiar with Doc’s commitment to rookie bigs, as JaJuan Johnson wasted away behind the Celtics’ veteran frontcourt, and the 2016-2017 Clippers should be in a similar position. Please no.

 

#34: Phoenix Suns                                           Fit Score: 17/20

Offensive fit: 5, Defensive fit: 5

Coaching Staff Development: 2

Pressure to Produce: 5

Earl Watson is pretty much an unknown as a developmental coach, but given the stable of players and picks Phoenix has this year, backup center for Alex Len remains a need they’ll probably attack. Tyson Chandler is also on the roster, and though his on the court production has really deteriorated, I couldn’t imagine a better mentor for Hammons than Chandler. Phoenix won’t be contending, and AJ should get an opportunity to compete for backup minutes right away. A sleeper fantastic destination, barring a huge trade move from Phoenix.

 

#36, 38: Milwaukee Bucks                           Fit Score: 15/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 5

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 3

The book on Jason Kidd as a head coach is so intriguing. He started off as a joke, then did a tremendous job with a talentless Nets roster, then made a power play to head to Milwaukee and mold their young roster. The Bucks were super fun during his first season, and Kidd did a great job with the young guys, but ever since trading Brandon Knight away and signing Greg Monroe they’ve taken a bit of a nosedive. Monroe looks to be a prime trade candidate, and they would always welcome a Larry Sanders-style shot blocker on the roster to complement the stellar defense of Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo. But given the constant uncertainty for the offensive direction of this team…maybe it’s best that they pass on Hammons.

 

#37, 43: Houston Rockets                             Fit Score: 9/20

Offensive fit: 1, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 2

Pressure to Produce: 2

I might be a little bit harsh with Mike D’Antoni here, as he was pretty great at developing specialty talent during his time in Phoenix. The need is there as well, as Houston is looking for cheap rim protection depth after Dwight Howard opted out of his contract. So this is a real possibility, particularly if some of the international center prospects that GM Darryl Morey favors are off the board. But given the lack of leadership, direction, or general focus on defense, this could be a high-bust-potential landing spot for Hammons.

(Now watch it happen and me get sad.)

 

#39, 40: New Orleans Pelicans                   Fit Score: 13/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 3

Theoretically, bringing on the architect of the Warriors offense to mold Anthony Davis was a home run…but after a rash of injuries and a lack of roster depth, HC Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps are looking for immediate impact rookies to help Davis make another playoff appearance. On paper, a defensive backline of Davis and Hammons would be delightful, and AJ would give real depth. But they had that role filled by Omer Asik, and it was kind of a disaster. It’s looking more and more like Davis’ natural offensive role is as a center, so the Pelicans might take a couple swings to find a bulky power forward that can rotate onto bigs, but keep things open for Davis to run wild offensively. This wouldn’t be a terrible fit, and seems like a decent place to start a career, but better options are out there.

(Also, AJ is a couple of months older than Davis. How wild is that?)

 

#41, 47: Orlando Magic                 Fit Score: 15/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 4

Orlando’s starting center, Nik Vucevic, is a very effective offensive player that might have never given a second of thought to the defensive side of the basketball. New head coach Frank Vogel is looking to make his mark on the young talent in Orlando, and with a great wing defender in Victor Oladipo on the roster, the safe bet is a focus on defense. (And it’s probably a decent assumption that Frank caught some Purdue games while coaching the Pacers these past five years.) The Magic might pair their top pick with a young piece to draft a rim protecting 4 like Dragan Bender, but they’ll still be looking for talented bigs in the second round. If Hammons is available at #47 and Orlando has only picked one big, I’d think Orlando would make a ton of sense. Hammons turning into a Roy Hibbert-like defender (while being a more willing jump shooter on offense) is a natural comparison, so why not give AJ to the guy that molded Roy?

 

#42, 52, 60: Utah Jazz                                     Fit Score: 18/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 5

Coaching Staff Development: 5

Pressure to Produce: 4

While everyone in the league is so eager to emulate Golden State and the old LeBron-Miami smallball lineups, Utah has doubled-down on going big. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are as formidable a frontcourt as you can find in the association, and rim protection is HC Quinn Snyder’s calling card. AJ might not get too many minutes right away, but the thought of Hammons backing up Gobert for a constant stream of shot blockers is mouth-watering for NBA nerds. Utah is absolutely a team on the rise, Snyder is a fantastic coach, and there’s no spotlight on the team’s backup center to produce on both sides of the ball immediately. Though this doesn’t fill a real need for Utah (they should be looking for another big wing to pair with Gordon Hayward when they inevitably have to go small), this might be the most promising landing spot for Hammons to succeed.

 

#44, 54: Atlanta Hawks                                  Fit Score: 18/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 5

Pressure to Produce: 5

So, did you see what I typed with Utah? Just copy/paste that for Atlanta, minus the “up and coming” thing. GM/Head Coach Mike Budenholzer is a Popovich devotee, and has gotten the most out of everyone in Atlanta these last couple of years. Given the tenuous free agency of center AL Horford, center depth might suddenly become an issue for the Hawks. If they don’t completely blow it up and trade everyone, pairing Millsap with Hammons off the bench could be a fantastic defensive lineup, and with the team entering a “retooling” stage, the opportunity for Hammons to develop under a great coach could be one of the best launching points for a long pro career.

 

#46: Dallas Mavericks                                    Fit Score: 13/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 2

Pressure to Produce: 3

This is another painful coaching section to write, because Rick Carlisle is the second best coach in the association. But he rarely trusts rookies, and Dallas hardly places any value on rebuilding around young talent…particularly after their championship run in 2011. Dirk Nowitzki thrives with a rim-protecting, pick-and-roll big beside him, in the Tyson Chandler mold, so schematically the Mavs would be a fantastic fit. But AJ needs a coach that will live with a few mistakes, and though center is a real need for the Mavs, I think the short leash Carlisle will have with Hammons wouldn’t be the best fit.

 

#48: Chicago Bulls                                           Fit Score: 12/20

Offensive fit: 2, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 3

I’ll be real: I have no idea if Fred Hoiberg is a good pro coach. He was a perfect college coach in the perfect situation, and had a real knack for forming a cohesive unit from a roster full of transfers at Iowa State. But his first year with the Bulls was an abject disaster, and he didn’t seem to have the temperament to handle a ton of veterans. Luckily, Chicago is blowing everything up, and Taj Gibson might be on the trading block. On one hand, the opportunity to anchor the defense for a retooling Bulls roster under a coach that does well with young players might be great for AJ…but the combination of being so close to home and the Purdue/Bulls fanbase overlap might magnify every inevitable rookie mistake he makes. I doubt Hammons falls this far, so it shouldn’t be an issue, but man…this is a weird one.

 

#49: Detroit Pistons                                        Fit Score: 15/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 4

Andre Drummond is the center of the future in Detroit, and might be the center of the future for the Eastern Conference. And while center isn’t necessarily a need for Stan Van Gundy, he might really enjoy working with another behemoth that should be able to give Drummond a few breathers without sacrificing style of play. Even though he’s another grating coach, I get the feeling Hammons would respond well to the bluntness of SVG, who is an infinitely better coach than our Matty Painter…but their leadership styles are very similar. Again, I don’t think Hammons slips this far, but if he does Detroit might just see the talent and grab him without worrying about fit right away.

 

#50: Indiana Pacers                                         Fit Score: 12/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 2

Pressure to Produce: 3

Larry Bird seems to be serious about this whole fast-paced offense thing, and even though it seems like a professional midlife crisis, the George Hill-Jeff Teague move should give everyone the confidence that the bullyball Pacer era is officially dead. Myles Turner is the center of the future in Indiana, but with Ian Mahinmi almost certainly cashing out in free agency this summer the Pacers could use a spot of center depth. I actually think the defensive fit would be great, and that HC Nate McMillan won’t be playing at D’Antoni-speeds, but the pressure to not mess up an hour away from Purdue’s campus might be a bit much. A little bit of change right after college is always a good thing, so for AJ’s sake I hope he gets some new scenery with the team that picks him.

But seriously, if the Pacers pick Hammons I might just empty my bank account at the team store and just wear AJ Pacers gear for the rest of my life.

 

#53, 56: Denver Nuggets                              Fit Score: 11/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 3

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 1

If we’re just looking at style-of-play, playing for Michael Malone would be pretty great for Hammons. Malone was the DeMarcus Cousins whisperer in Sacramento, and is extremely comfortable playing with big ol’ bullies inside. But…they already have three really good, really young centers in Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and Joffrey Lauvergne, so unless Denver wants to revolutionize the game and play 5 centers with less than 7 years of total experience, I’d say Denver passes on Hammons.

 

#55: Brooklyn Nets                                         Fit Score: 12/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 3

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 3

Middle of the road scores, because I have no strong takes on the Brooklyn Nets, because nobody has any strong takes on the Brooklyn Nets, because the Brooklyn Nets are super boring and uninteresting and devoid of talent and draft picks and in a seemingly inescapable malaise under the ownership of the a Russian billionaire that wants us to believe he made his billions selling stonewashed jeans. But hey, . Kenny Atkinson seems to be a decent coach hire. They don’t even have the assets to trade up in the draft, so the likelihood that Hammons ends up in Brooklyn is miniscule. But if he somehow slips to 55, he would almost certainly be the best player on the board, and the Nets desperately need talent

 

#57: Memphis Grizzlies                                                Fit Score: 15/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 4

AJ Hammons learning how to be a professional from Marc Gasol is what my happiest dreams are made of. Memphis needs wings much more than it needs a backup center, but boy oh boy would Aneesh be happy to watch AJ turn into Marc Gasol. The brightest timeline for AJ’s career is if he turns into Gasol Lite, and I would be so happy if that happened, and he would be a perfect fit in Memphis, and now I’m just rambling because I’m so happy picturing that happening. But this seems to be too low to grab Hammons, and their only other pick is at #17. But I absolutely adore this fit.

 

#59: Sacramento Kings                                  Fit Score: 13/20

Offensive fit: 2, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 3

The coaching chaos should be screeching to a halt in dysfunctional Sacramento, with the hiring of former Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. If Cousins sticks around, and Joerger coaches a similar scheme to what he implemented in Memphis, the system might be a great fit for Hammons. But Willie Cauley-Stein is DMC’s backup, and being at the back of a positional logjam for the Kings is the more surefire way to flame out of the NBA in record itme.

 

 

Now, the teams that don’t have picks in this range but might trade in:

Charlotte Hornets                                           Fit Score: 17/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 5

Pressure to Produce: 4

Charlotte is another tremendous landing spot for Hammons, given Steve Clifford’s commitment to playing at least one big on the floor at all times and Michael Jordan’s affinity for drafting 4-year college players. But Charlotte’s only pick in the draft is at #22, which is too high for Hammons. In the off-chance that they trade into the second round to grab a backup for Al Jefferson, I can think of no better fir than Hammons. The pairing with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might give Purdue fans Ray Davis memories, and the opportunity to develop under assistant coach Patrick Ewing seems like a pretty good thing for any behemoth NBA player.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers                                        Fit Score: 11/20

Offensive fit: 2, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 2

Barring a massive trade, Cleveland’s championship roster is pretty much set for next year. They already have the most expensive roster in NBA history, don’t own any draft picks, and don’t seem interested in developing rookies. But with the departure of Timofey Mozgov, they could use another rim protector off the bench, and picturing Hammons playing that role for cheap actually seems pretty perfect. He wouldn’t get many minutes to produce, but the exposure to high-pressure playoff situations might be a great thing for Hammons’ development. The only way Cleveland ends up with a 2nd rounder is if it’s a throw-in to a trade (read: if they trade Kevin Love to the Celtics and get one of their dozen picks in the package), in which case drafting a rim protector that can contribute right away might not be a bad move. But it’s a pretty low probability.

 

Miami Heat                                                        Fit Score: 14/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 3

Erik Spoelstra is a tremendous coach. If you come in here with “LeBron/Wade/Bosh made his career!” I’m going to have to ask you to gather your belongings and leave. I have no idea if Hassan Whiteside is leaving Miami, but for Spo to trust a headcase that has been on the NBA fringes and have him turn into a shot blocking demon is a testament to the culture of the Heat (and to Whiteside’s brilliant play this year) and should be a promising sign if Hammons somehow ends up in South Beach. Miami doesn’t own a pick this year, but should they buy into the second round Hammons is definitely in play (especially if they think Whiteside is gone).

 

Minnesota Timberwolves                           Fit Score: 13/20

Offensive fit: 2, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 3

A young shot-blocking center coming off the bench for a Tom Thibodeau-coached team and developing into a valuable asset that eventually gets paid an absurd amount of money. This is basically a yearly tradition, and I’d be pretty ecstatic if Hammons becomes the next guy in that mold. But as fun as it would be to see Hammons take over Nikola Pekovic/Gorgui Dieng’s role backing up Karl Anthony-Towns, I can’t see a way Minnesota ends up trading into the 2nd round to draft another center.

 

New York Knicks                                              Fit Score: 12/20

Offensive fit: 2, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 3

With Robin Lopez on his way to Chicago in the Derrick Rose trade, there is a clear need for rim protection behind rookie phenom Kristaps Porzingis (and whichever veteran center Phil Jackson inevitably overpays this summer). AJ would make a ton of sense for the Knicks, as anyone that can fill a role on a cheap contract would be welcome in the Garden. Like all the teams in this section, the only way that happens is if they trade a young asset for a 2nd rounder this year, or trade one of their 2017 extra second round picks along with cash to move into the draft. Doesn’t seem like a thing Phil would do, but then again, who knows what the peyote will smell like Thursday night?

 

Oklahoma City Thunder                                Fit Score: 10/20

Offensive fit: 2, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 1

Turns out Billy Donovan is a great coach, and was experimenting with lineups the entire year. If Kevin Durant returns, the Thunder should be one of the favorites to bring home a title in 2017, and a large part of that is the emergence of their big man rotation of Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, and Enes Kanter. I can’t see why OKC would be a landing spot for Hammons, and if he does it would spell several years glued to the bench. At least he’d get a front row seat to the Russell Westbrook show every night.

 

Philadelphia 76ers                                          Fit Score: 7/20

Offensive fit: 1, Defensive fit: 1

Coaching Staff Development: 3

Pressure to Produce: 2

The Process is dead, long live The Process. The Sixers’ management moved in a new direction this offseason, and even though they seemingly prioritize experience over potential…well, they already have a dozen centers on this roster. That’s the reason for the low score, even though I’m a devout fan of The Process and of HC Brett Brown. But yeah…this ain’t happening, and if it does we all need to march to Philadelphia with torches and pitchforks and “Free AJ” signs.

 

Portland Trailblazers                                      Fit Score: 18/20

Offensive fit: 4, Defensive fit: 5

Coaching Staff Development: 5

Pressure to Produce: 4

HC Terry Stotts might be the most creative offensive coach in the league, and somehow turned a ragtag bunch of afterthought signings into a second round playoff team with a young, promising core. Trading one of their pieces for an early 2nd rounder is a distinct possibility, and a rim protecting backup center would definitely be on their wish list. Portland needs to capitalize on this momentum, and pairing more low-risk talent with Damian Lillard is the best way to move forward. The Blazers would be another low-pressure, fantastic environment landing spot for Hammons.

 

Toronto Raptors                                               Fit Score: 12/20

Offensive fit: 2, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 2

Pressure to Produce: 4

The Raptors will assuredly lose Bismack Biyombo this summer, and their front office will want to replace his rim protection with another young piece. That being said, the number of bigs waiting for an opportunity behind Jonas Valanciunas (Lucas Nogueira, the dependable Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson) seems to indicate that Toronto will go another direction with their additions.

 

Washington Wizards                                     Fit Score: 15/20

Offensive fit: 3, Defensive fit: 4

Coaching Staff Development: 4

Pressure to Produce: 4

Incoming HC Scott Brooks and his staff did wonders with the young talent in Oklahoma City, and if they trade away either Nene or Marcin Gortat the need for a backup center that can contribute immediately will be huge. Hammons seems like a great fit alongside the talented John Wall and Bradley Beal, and his shot blocking would allow their wings to be a little more aggressive defensively. Trading one of the centers to free up cap space and receiving a pick in return is a plausible scenario, and would be a solid destination for Hammons.

AJ Hammons drafted 46th overall to the Dallas Mavericks

AJ Hammons drafted 46th overall to the Dallas Mavericks

AJ Hammons 2016 NBA Draft Primer

AJ Hammons 2016 NBA Draft Primer

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