In the class of 2012 recruiting according to ESPN, AJ Hammons was the 82nd rated prospect in the country. Coming in at 7'0 and 275 pounds, Hammons' body was NBA ready to contribute to a Purdue team sorely lacking in the frontcourt. Two seasons later, Hammons could be considered a minor bust, averaging nearly 11 points and 7 rebounds a game in his two seasons in West Lafayette. Could this be the year when Hammons is ready to break out and become an NBA prospect, or will his lackluster production drag Purdue to the bottom half of the Big Ten again?
If you've never seen Hammons play before, he's quite a confusing player to watch. There are times where he will have a smaller defender and absolutely dominate from 10 feet and in on the low block. He has an array of moves, including a devastating baby hook from the block and a drop step that has some NBA GMs drooling. However, there are sequences where Hammons seems invisible, hiding on the offensive end and letting his guards dribble for 25 seconds. Hammons does not have enough skills to bail his team out with a drive to the basket, so generally the ball is passed into a tough, contested jumper. The key for Purdue this year will be their ability to get Hammons involved early on in the shot clock, allowing for more movement on the perimeter to free up shooters such as Kendall Stephens.
A.J. Hammons 2014 Scouting Video (via DraftExpress)
In his highlights, watch how quick his first step is. His mammoth size allows for a quick step and an easy put in if his teammates can give him the ball. At the 2 minute mark, Hammons shows his athleticism and ability to jump for someone his size. The video goes on to show his prowess on defense, especially his ability to both block shots and alter them at the rim. However, as stated above and the video agrees with, Hammons lacks a strong motor. This is something that he needs to work on, especially if he wants to play at the next level.
Overall, AJ Hammons has the ability to be one of the Big Ten's best players. He fits the mold of an X-factor perfectly because his production on both ends of the floor will really make or break Purdue as the season goes on. Purdue has not made it to the NCAA tournament since Hammons has been on campus, but made it the previous six years with the leadership of Chris Kramer, Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore. If Hammons wants to be remembered as a great Purdue player, he will have to get this Boilermaker squad over the hump and overachieve for an NCAA tournament bid.