A.J. Hammons scored 16 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the field in his NBA D-League debut with the Texas Legends, adding six rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes.

The first-year pro, on a one-game assignment from the Mavs, started at center for the Legends in the team’s season opener against the Maine Red Claws, the Boston Celtics’ affiliate. Hammons looked like an NBA center in the game, the best big man on the floor for either team, which is exactly what was supposed to happen.

However, he would have compiled a more impressive stat line had he not fouled out in the fourth quarter. As impressive an offensive performance as he had, Hammons said that’s not what the Mavs’ coaches sent him up the tollway to work on.

“I’m not really worried about offense,” he said after the game. “Just defensively just trying to talk, and show I can do other things than just score. I’m really just trying to be there in transition, be in the right position, and then really just defensively do the things I don’t do all the time, the little things.”

The Legends, coached by longtime D-League boss Bob MacKinnon, play almost the exact same offense as the Mavs, but the defense is a little different. The Legends pressure the ball a bit more and occasionally even run some halfcourt traps, so Hammons was assuming some new responsibilities, which could explain some of the fouls. He said the Mavericks were more concerned with his activity level than production, anyway, and Hammons did show some burst on both ends.

While the player himself said he was more concerned with defense than offense, Hammons did flash a bit of everything offensively in his one-game stint. Two plays which stood out both came in the pick-and-roll with Kyle Collinsworth, who played with the Mavericks throughout the preseason.

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Hammons has legitimate size and strength, and he’s quick enough on his feet to be very effective in the pick-and-roll as he continues to develop his game. Along with his soft touch from the outside, he can develop a pretty unique skill set for a guy at his position. (He was a very respectable 9 of 21, or 42.9 percent, from between 10-24 feet during the preseason, per NBA Stats.)

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“I think he’s got to be a guy that can get us some rebounds, can get us some positive activity inside along with his jump-shooting game,” Rick Carlisle said. “He’s a 6-11, 7-foot guy that can shoot the ball, and those guys are valuable in this league now. He’s got to keep working. He’s getting better and better each week.”

Hammons had played just two minutes total in the 2016-17 season before getting in at the end of last Wednesday’s contest at Golden State. In just over six minutes, the 24-year-old scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds, capping off a solid performance by draining a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.

“I was just waiting on my name to get called the whole night, and (Carlisle) finally called it, so I just knew I had to go out there and just perform, or do whatever I needed my team to do,” Hammons said.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hammons sent to the D-League a few more times this season, as long as the Legends and Mavs are in town at the same time. The Mavericks have done this with many young players in recent seasons, most notably last year with Justin Anderson, who averaged 23.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in seven D-League games. Salah Mejri, Jeremy Evans, Ricky Ledo, Jae Crowder, Bernard James, and Shane Larkin have also appeared for Texas since the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

The Legends fell to the Red Claws, 137-131, despite a game-high 49 points from Texas’ Manny Harris. You can watch the full game here.

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