Mavs Draft 7-0 Purdue Center AJ Hammons

Mavs NBA Draft Traffic - Info As It Happens! Featuring the No. 46 pick AJ Hammons, the 7-0 center from Purdue .. Come inside!

WELCOME TO MAVS DRAFT TRAFFIC!

With the NBA Draft now before us (coverage starting at 7 p.m. with LSU's Ben Simmons going to Philly), the Dallas Mavericks were working to figure out what they'll do with their No. 46 pick. They worked into the night last night with plans to finalize the Big Board at 1 p.m. today.

The pick: AJ Hammons, a 7-0, 250-pound center from Purdue who played all four seasons there and last year averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.

Mavs Premium ... has lots more background coming, including all the work they (and we) did to arrive here, below. (We'll update more on Hammons throughout the night live from the AAC.)

Get fresh info here from Donnie Nelson videoed tonight just before the draft began ...

And know this:

We're hearing plenty of stuff out of Mavs HQ, so use our DB.com News Archives and your imagination to figure out what Mark Cuban and company has planned. ... much of it even more headline-grabbing than the NBA Draft, including the latest on Dirk, Chandler Parsons and a way to net both top target Mike Conley AND Hassan Whiteside.

Below, our Matthew Postins will take you position-group-by-position-group with a handful of names we like at 46. We'll also give you names from this draft who actually visited the Mavs. And again, we'll keep you posted throughout the day and night, so click back here often for the latest and we'll stack it up top!

NO TRADE-UP 'CAUSE OF CLOG-UP?

The NBA Draft is hours away and the Dallas Mavericks' scheduled first pick is ... well, hours after that. And here is a first round in which multiple teams have multiple picks and are looking to shed those picks for, in many cases, more cap space.

So ... "Cap Space is King''? Don't we hate when the Mavs do it that way?

Then, I guess, we should hate when teams like the Atlanta Hawks and the Charlotte Hornets do the same.

The Hornets are looking to dump their 22nd overall pick to allow them to create space. ... cap space that will allow them to keep Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin or chase Dwight Howard ("Cap Space Was King'' that year for Dallas, using the same approach) ...

Sources: Charlotte's offering No. 22 - if team will take contract of Spencer Hawes or Jeremy Lamb. Hornets need space to re-sign free agents

Do the Mavs like Lamb or Hawes as players? Oh, they could be helpful bodies. But here's why, sources inside Mavs HQ tell me, this isn't happening: Hawes has two years left on his contract worth about $6 million annually and Lamb has three years left on his contract worth about $7 million annually. ... and both of those salaries represent a cap clog that Dallas doesn't want ...

Just like Charlotte and Atlanta don't want their caps clogged by the likes of Lamb and Hawes.

Maybe this is a mistake on Dallas' part because it underrates some "turnaround'' talent available at 22. (But it looks like Atlanta and Charlotte share the Mavs' view there, eh?) I'm told that in general Dallas doesn't want to take on heavy baggage in order to enter Round 1, and that the Mavs don't want to give up big assets (such as they are) to do it, either.

"If we're blown away by a steal of a deal,'' maybe, one source says. 

In short, the Mavs would rather have $7 mil of room to do their business with Dirk and with Parsons (or not) and with Mike Conley or with Hassan Whiteside. (Or with both, if Parsons dislikes the no-max line being drawn in cement.)

HOT NAMES, HOT TIPS

OK, here are my Hot Names -- Hot Tips -- from the Mavs' Big Board:

1) They think very highly of Gary Payton II, the 6-3 guard from Oregon State. Problem: Some inside Mavs HQ believe he'll go between 32-38. (Maybe that's a reason to slide up?) See more on Payton below.

2) While AJ Hammons is attractive, there are those in the scouting department who much prefer Stephen Zimmerman, the 7-0 freshman from UNLV. He's a baby ... but the potential might be there. Someone might see that potential and take him at the end of Round 1.

3) Caris LaVert is a 6-7 guard from Michigan who is rehabbing from a broken foot. Once upon a time, he was considered a first-round guy. The injury thing looms ... but Dallas would like to see him slip.

4) And one more: Dallas worked out Demarcus Cousins' brother, Jaleel. He's a 6-11, 250-pound center but ... he didn't look ready enough. Of course, if you want a path to someday acquiring Boogie ...

Who else might the Mavs be interested in? We take a look at players by position group — realistic possibilities — leading up to the draft. Here we look at centers, and the Mavs could certainly use a young big man in the middle.

ROUND 2 CENTERS WE LIKE

A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue (7-foot, 250 pounds)

Your prototypical back-to-the-basket center, Hammons has plenty going for him. Watch his tape and you can see a player with a refined post game that one would expect from a guy who played four years of college basketball. He has shooting range from eight feet out, has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and led the Big Ten in blocks each of his four seasons of college.  His senior-year averages of 15 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game lead one to believe that his production can translate to the next level. He was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season. What he needs to work on is passing out of the post and limiting his turnovers. But the raw materials are there and I could see him working his way into an immediate backup role, as his height, defensive and physical play are sorely needed in this lineup.

Diamond Stone, C, Maryland (6-foot-11, 255 pounds)

Stone is another old-school center like Hammons, except Stone is just 19, a full five years younger than Hammons. So if you're thinking about the future that has definite appeal. Stone stepped on the floor his freshman year and led the Terps to the Sweet 16, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. He averaged 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots last season. Like Hammons, he has a considerable wingspan (7-foot-2 3/4) and likes to block shots. Plus, at 255 pounds he will be hard to move around down low. He is a solid shooter and moves around well in the post, but doesn't have the elite athleticism that would likely make him a first-round pick. In the plus column he's a solid free throw shooter and teams won't be able to resort to Hack-a-Diamond (which, in of itself, is a great name). He isn't fully developed, and that's the chief difference between he and Hammons. Hammons is a nearly-finished product, based on his tape. Stone has a ways to go, based on his tape, and at times lacks discipline, both in the post and in how he gets up and down the floor. But the raw materials are undeniable and with a couple of years of solid coaching he could emerge as a starter. 

 

Zhou Qi, C, China (7-foot-2, 218 pounds)

Because taking a Chinese center worked so well the first time — or are you too young to remember the greatness of Wang Zhixhi? By the way, the joke's on us. The 36-year old center is still playing in China. All kidding aside, Qi played for Xinjiang last year and because he's young and he played in China his value is all over the place (some see him as a first-round pick, some as a second-round pick). His wingspan (7-foot-7 3/4) is one of the longest in this draft. He's already worked out in Dallas and he's expected to play in the Olympics in Rio. He needs to put on some weight, but he was still able to lead his league in blocked shots last season (3.2 per game). He's considered a solid defender and good passer out of the post. But he wasn't much of an offensive player, which is the biggest difference between him and the other centers on this list. He comes to any NBA team needing a year or two to add weight, learn the game and make the most of short minutes. You take him and you're banking on projection, not immediate production.

Georgios Papagiannis, C, Greece (7-foot-2, 275 pounds)

First off, Papagiannis is an immediate inductee onto any all-name team. Like Xi, he's a projection player. You're banking that you can develop him for a year or two, perhaps even leaving him overseas during that time, so that he can emerge as a starter or immediate backup. He's just 18 and he didn't play much in the Greek League last year — 11 minutes, 6.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Scouts love the size. At 275 pounds, he could be a huge asset in the pick and roll game (though, scouts point out that his roll game needs work). He shot 68 percent from the field a year ago and his range is out to 15 feet. If there something that sticks out in the scouting reports I've read is that Papagiannis can work both sides of the paint, can make moves to either side of his body and is more athletic and quick inside than you might expect. His film shows plenty of promise. But of the four players listed, he is probably the farthest from playing meaningful NBA minutes.

Worth noting: Donnie Nelson and the Mavs scouting department is well-known for having connections overseas ... and yeah, in recent years that especially goes for China and Greece.

ROUND 2 FORWARDS WE LIKE

Pascal Siakam, PF, New Mexico State (6-foot-10, 227 pounds)

The Cameroon native comes to the NBA via New Mexico State University, where the 22-year-old was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore, scoring 20.3 points, grabbing 11.3 rebounds and blocking 2.2 shots per game. That wasn't a fluke. He was the WAC Freshman of the Year in 2014-15. Siakam chose to pass on his final two years of eligibility. He had an impressive combine. His wingspan (7-foot-3) and vertical (36 inches) lines up with some of the centers we profiled. The difference is Siakam's mobility and athleticism. He runs the floor. He plays defense close to the rim and away from the basket effectively. He has a good base of inside-the-paint shots to work with, including a hard-to-defend hook shot. He'll need to add to that in the NBA. He also needs to add some upper body strength and improve his outside shot (44 percent in college). But you watch film and you see a player that projects as a full-court performer with difficult-to-defend length.

Jarrod Uthoff, PF, Iowa (6-foot-10, 214 pounds)

Uthoff averaged 19.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.0 steals per game last season for the Hawkeyes and some think he could be taken in the late first round. I watch tape and I see a highly-fundamental player who knows how to play with his feet on the floor and with his feet in the air — and there's a difference. But his biggest strength is his shooting ability. He's especially good at the catch-and-jump and has enough skills to move with the ball and create some space. He worked a lot in one-on-one situations at Iowa, and that could come in handy in the NBA. Defensively he's one of the best shot blockers in the draft, as evidenced by his average. He uses his body well in space and does a good job of avoiding contact when possible. I don't see him as a prolific scorer in the NBA. He has a ceiling. But if he could project to a player that can give you a 10-point, 6-rebound, 1-block per night kind of player in a couple of years, he's worth considering.

Wayne Selden Jr., SF, Kansas (6-foot-5, 230 pounds)

He's listed as a shooting guard but with his height, weight and wingspan (6-foot-10) he could stretch into a small forward with some teams. One of two Kansas players on this list, Selden saw serious jumps in his production his junior year, scoring 13.8 points per game and shooting nearly 40 percent from the 3-point line. A small forward with that kind of range can help stretch defenses. Watch his highlights and you see a player that can close the deal at the rim. If there are concerns there are two. First, he's not a good free throw shooter (61 percent in college). Second, he took a big jump from his sophomore to his junior statistically, similar to what Justin Anderson did at Virginia. Think of Selden as a player much in Anderson's mold, one that will need time to develop and earn playing time in Year 1.

Perry Ellis, PF, Kansas (6-foot-8, 220 pounds)

Ellis played four years at Kansas, a rarity in the college game these days. He played with a great deal of consistency at Kansas, averaging 12.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in his career and hewing close to those numbers his final three seasons. He has a smooth, effective mid-range jumper and defends well from the basket. Additionally he's developed a nice 3-point shot that has room to develop. Ellis doesn't possess a lot of athleticism, but he's functionally quick and moves well laterally (he actually had the fastest three-quarter court time at the NBA Combine). Draft him and you get a player who is mature and can play minutes off the bench right away, assuming he can handle the physicality at the NBA level.

Rade Zajorac, PF, Serbia (6-foot-9, 205 pounds)

You didn't think we could get through this without a foreign player, did you? Of course not. Zajorac is the thinnest player on this list, but he has a skill set which projects well in pro basketball. He was going to be a part of the 2015 NBA Draft but withdrew. The 20-year old won't be dropping out this time after a short season in Serbia that saw him score 13.1 points per game in 29 minutes. He only played 13 games due to a broken elbow, so teams have been combing through his physicals. He's not a tremendous isolation player, and you need that in the NBA. Same goes for his long-range shooting, though at age 20 he has time to develop that in his game. But he's a slashing forward with an eye for finding good lanes to the basket and has improved his defense the past two years. He's a project. He probably needs two more years before he could be really effective in the NBA. If you draft him you might leave him in Europe for another year before bringing him stateside. But he could become something special.

ROUND 2 GUARDS WE LIKE

Isaiah Whitehead, SG, Seton Hall (6-foot-5, 210 pounds)

Whitehead declared for the NBA Draft after two seasons with the Pirates. Whitehead scored 18.2 points and dished out 5.1 assists last season, improving on his 2014-15 numbers by six points and nearly two assists. So while his position says shooting guard, he certainly has the chops to fill in at point guard. He also, likely, has more room to grow in the NBA. Moneyball wonks want to adjust his shooting percentage, but the fact is that at 38 percent from the floor in 2015-16 he has to improve. Whitehead had a green light on offense and that caused some undisciplined drives. The good news is the raw materials are there because his percentage from 3-point land (36.5 percent last season) is nearly as good as his overall percentage. Hand this kid to Rolando Blackman for a year or two and his efficiency surely will go up. Some see him as a first-round talent, but that uneven shooting touch will likely lead him to drop into the second round.

Gary Payton II, PG, Oregon State (6-foot-3, 184 pounds)

Are you old enough to remember "The Glove?" That's what the folks in Seattle used to call his dad, Gary Payton, who was one of the game's best defenders when he played for the SuperSonics. Not only did GPII follow in dad's footsteps as a guard, but he also went to dad's alma mater, Oregon State, where he played two seasons before declaring for the NBA. Watch his tape and he has his dad's handle. Last year GPII scored 16 points and handed out five assists per game. His shooting percentage was consistently near 50 percent, and he was quite an adept rebounder (7.8 per game). If you look at his numbers from Year 1 to Year 2 they're amazingly consistent. Oh, and the defense? Yeah he inherited that from dad, too, averaging nearly three steals per game in his career. He played four different positions at Oregon State. If he's anything like his dad, and it looks like he is, he's worth considering here.

Michael Gbinije, SG, Syracuse (6-foot-7, 205 pounds)

Gnibije's college career started at Duke and ended at Syracuse and with a trip to the 2016 Final Four. As a senior he found his scoring touch, averaging 17.5 points per game and hitting nearly 40 percent of his 3-pointers. He also had more than four assists per game. At 6-foot-7 he has the height to be a matchup problem for smaller shooting guards and the flexibility to move into the small forward role when needed. Because of the year he sat out, he's 24 years old and that may limit his overall ceiling. But scouts like the fact that he's a well-rounded player on both ends of the floor and that should translate to the next level.

Sheldon McClennan, SG, Miami (FL) (6-foot-6, 200 pounds)

A late bloomer in this draft, McClennan transferred to Miami from Texas and earned a late invite to the NBA Scouting Combine. He played right away as a freshman at Texas and his career has been remarkably steady, seeing his scoring average rise from 11.3 ppg as a freshman to 16.3 ppg as a senior. He hit his stride as a shooter his senior year, sliding over 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the 3-point line for the first time in a season. His height can cause matchup problems and he can shoot off the dribble and off the pass. He's not as much of a passer as you might like from a guard and he has a reputation for getting too locked in on his own shot, but those are habits that can be broken by a good coaching staff. I like the fact that he's played four years and he's exhibited consistency throughout his career. It means you know what you're getting. That may not be a starter, but certainly a guy that can contribute.

Fred VanVleet, PG, Wichita State (6-foot, 190)

Watch his game tape and several things jump out. He's a true facilitator at the position. He has a good handle and knows how to distribute the ball, not only to the open man, but to the open man's best area to shoot. He handles defensive pressure well, runs a good pick and roll and has a coach's mentality when it comes to the offense. At the college level he was a fine defender as well. He has the feel of a brainy player that can eventually handle an offense without much guidance from the head coach. One wonders if his shot would improve with a little more coaching (42.6 percent from the floor for his career) and he's not going to scare defenders driving to the basket. But he looks like a fine backup point guard with spot-start upside, and with the number of guards the Mavs have on the roster, a pure point guard would be helpful to develop.

MAVS PRE-DRAFT 'THE VISITORS LIST'

About the list below, our collection of names of pre-NBA Draft visitors to the Dallas Mavericks: There does seem to be a point-guard lean here. There is certainly a Texas-accented flavor. A trio of Indiana guys stand out ... as does the name "Cousins,'' as Jaleel is the younger brother of Kings star DeMarcus Cousins. (Jaleel finished at South Florida after playing at Navarro College in Corsicana.) The list isn't complete ... but it offers some important hints, we think:

                   
 
Player Pos Ht/Wt Prev
Yogi Ferrell PG 6-0, 180 Indiana
Marcus Paige  PG 6-2, 175 North Carolina
A.J. English G 6-4, 190 Iona
Kay Felder  PG 5-9, 176 Oakland
Michael Gbinije G 6-7, 200 Syracuse
Isaiah Taylor  PG 6-3, 185 Texas
Nick Zeisloft G 6-4, 185 Indiana
Nic Moore PG 5-9, 170 SMU
Tim Quarterman G/F 6-6, 190 LSU
Brannen Greene G/F 6-7, 215 Kansas
Danuel House  G/F 6-7, 212 Texas A&M
Damion Lee G/F 6-6, 210 Louisville
Troy Williams  SF 6-7, 215 Indiana
Robert Carter Jr. PF 6-9, 250 Maryland
Isaiah Miles  PF 6-7, 216 Saint Joseph's
Markus Kennedy PF 6-9, 245 SMU
Shaq Goodwin PF 6-9, 235 Memphis
Josh Scott  C 6-10, 245 Colorado
Shawn Long  C 6-11, 246 Lo-Lafayette
Elgin Cook G/F 6-6, 205 Oregon
Ron Baker G 6-4, 215 Wichita State
Jaleel Cousins C 6-11, 250 South Florida

 MORE NOTES AND LINKS

*Big name emerging from the four days of Mavs Vet Camps? Sources tell me it's the 6-9, 250-pound former first-rounder Arnett Moultrie.

*Want to talk more Mavs? Check out DB.com Boards or hit up Postins @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher @FishSports

*For updates throughout the day and night, keep it locked in here and at DB.com Mavs Boards for all the info as it happens!

Want to talk more Mavs? Check out the DallasBasketball.com Boards or hit up Postins @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher @FishSports


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