A.J. Hammons was a Purdue Boilermaker at a very interesting time in the schools basketball timeline. His first two years at Purdue were a struggle, including finishing last in the Big Ten as a sophomore.
During his freshman and sophomore seasons, the talent that he had was truly very evident to anyone watching. Talent was never the question with A.J., the questions surrounding him were always about his motor. Did he even want to be playing basketball?
The switch seemed to flip for him right around the start of conference play as a junior, as the Boilers jumped from last place in the conference to a 12-6 conference season and 21-13 overall. The Boilermakers had a strong season in this his senior year, finishing at 26-8 overall and 12-6 in the conference before being upset by Arkansas Little Rock in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, a game where Hammons finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 6 blocks.
The career numbers for A.J. Hammons come in at just over 12 points per game, 7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
Hammons leaves Purdue as the second leading shot blocker in school history, behind only the legendary Joe Barry Carroll, and his defensive instinct and shot blocking ability is really what NBA scouts seem to love about him.
Hammons' Draft Outlook
When it comes right down to it, Hammons has two things that you can't teach. He's got size, first of all. He's listed at 7'0", 261 pounds and he can move fairly well for someone at that size. The other thing he has is his instinct. Few Big Ten players in recent memory have had the ability to block shots that Hammons' has. Looking at the pure shot blocking numbers of Hammons is impressive, of course. But if you watched Purdue at all this year, you also saw something that statistics can't necessarily account for.
There were a lot of shots that Hammons didn't block because the opposing team never took them. His presence on the defensive end of the floor was definitely a constant thought and even sometimes a fear of the opposing players. Even in an era of professional basketball with the pace and space offense where the three point shot reigns supreme, rim protection is a huge factor for any team. Look at the best teams in the NBA and they ALL have at least one great shot blocker.
The Warriors have Andrew Bogut, the Spurs have an all-time great in Tim Duncan, the Clippers have DeAndre Jordan. You get the point, shot blocking is an enormous factor in even professional basketball with the emphasis on the three point line.
While his biggest upside is on the defensive end of the floor, A.J. Hammons boasts quite a bit of offensive savvy as well. While he averaged 15 points this year, he's got break out potential in any game. He posted 27 points, 11 rebounds in the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan and had a game against Nebraska on January 30th where he posted 32 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. The passing ability he has is a skill that is often overlooked by a common fan, but something that NBA people drool over in a big man.
Hammons certainly isn't going to be a top ten pick in the draft, and Sam Vecenie of CBSSports has Hammons ranked as the 35th best prospect overall in the draft. If a team could take Hammons as a late first round/early second round pick and put him in the right type of environment where he can come off the bench and play 15-20 minutes a game, he will certainly have a very successful NBA career.