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A.J. Hammons: Miami’s low risk, high upside sleeper thanks to Josh McRoberts

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The other side of the McRoberts trade, Hammons could become a big boom or a bust for the Heat.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at A.J. Hammons’ AAU stats, he checks all the boxes for the Michael Beasley trophy. In 2008 the Miami Heat, along with scouts in general, were blinded by Beas’ gaudy collegiate numbers. In 2015-16 Hammons statistically dominated the Big Ten on offense and defense:

  • 0.592 FG% (1st)
  • 0.601 EFG% (1st)
  • 2-pt FG made 193 (1st)
  • Off Reb 314 (2nd)
  • PER 31.0 (1st)
  • Def Rtg 88.7 (1st)
  • Def +/- 8.0 (1st).

The video shows a 23 year-old, 7’0”, 260 lb man competing against boys.

A Bleacher Report study lists the knocks on this man-child, which held back his stock on draft night of 2016.

He checks almost all of the boxes when it comes to size and skill, but his effort level and focus are big question marks.

Later in the article the numerous attitude issues came up.

There are red flags from a suspension and benching in college. He missed two exhibition games and the season opener as a sophomore after violating team rules. This past season, he was benched for the first two games and didn't move into the starting lineup until January 7.

"He's known as a great kid, but there's some 'Does he love the game?' concerns," the first scout said.

The most realistic comparison could be a taller version of Golden State's Marreese Speights. Hammons has a similar body type and will also need to watch his weight, but Speights has survived in the league because of his skill and ability to get buckets off the bench.

The modern-day poster child is Patrick O'Bryant, who went ninth in the 2006 draft and lasted only four seasons in the league. O'Bryant was on record saying he tended not to play with much effort.

Hammons has the 7-foot height and the weight for an elite rim protector. If he capitalizes on becoming successful with his jump shots, he would become a two-way threat: inside and outside. Staying in the NBA hinges on his ability to score from distance with consistency.

What he lacks is the mentality of Heat Culture players, with their fanatical obsession about World Class shape. James Johnson dropped down from 275 lb to resurrect his career in Miami.

Can Hammons slim down and get buff for the same big payday? Does he care? A.J. looked pudgy in the video, and needs to condition his body to Miami’s rigorous standards.

The question for Hammons is whether he stays a Beasley or becomes a Johnson. A success for A.J. would be Miami’s second potential find for the 2017-18 season - the first belongs to Bam Adebayo. The Heat are famous for saving careers, but there are limits, which the team can’t overcome, such as when the player doesn’t cooperate.

If Hammons gets his act together and reaches his NBA potential, the McRoberts trade would be a coup for the team, in more ways than one.