Although he already spent his rookie season with the Nuggets, Jordan Hamilton may be Denver’s most important new addition next season. New, at least, in the sense of being a regular rotation player who wasn’t in the mix in any meaningful way last season. Front office exec Masai Ujiri has already described Hamilton as “our rookie for next year” and it may be the case that the Nuggets organization views him as the replacement for Rudy Fernandez, or at least the player Rudy might have been for Denver had he not suffered a season ending injury.
In the 31 games Fernandez did play in, he averaged 23 minutes, and was primarily utilized (with varying degrees of effectiveness) as an offensive spark and energy player off the bench. With the anticipated healthy return of Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington to the rotation, and the re-signing of Andre Miller, who sometimes plays shooting guard alongside Ty Lawson, it’s difficult to imagine that Hamilton will get as many minutes as Rudy, or even crack twenty.
Even so, it does appear that the Nuggets intend to play him, which in turn raises the question of what kind of player we might expect J-Ham to be.
I was recently discussing this matter with various Nuggets fans on twitter. @Smooth_Operatah isn’t really sold on Hamilton, and feels that the warning signs in his college stats overshadow the encouraging signs in his NBA stats, particularly due to the small sample size of the latter. @SlickRickDaFish is of the opinion that the inclusion of J-Ham’s disappointing freshman season in his college numbers invalidates their significance.
I consider both of these points to be arguably valid. Hamilton’s NBA stats may be statistically insignificant (ie. they can’t really be used to demonstrate or predict anything beyond random chance), and anything prior to that may be insignificant in the regular sense of not meaning much. For example, he dropped to the Nuggets in the draft due mainly to “attitude”, but by all accounts he’s been one of the hardest working Nuggets this summer, and he had no reported disciplinary problems over the course of his rookie season. At the very least, the rap on him as a draft prospect doesn’t syncopate with what we’ve been seeing from him recently.
So basically this puts us in a bad spot in terms of making predictions, as we mostly have only insufficient or largely irrelevant data to work with. It’s just really difficult at this point to have any idea what kind of player Hamilton will turn into this season if and when given a bigger role.
Personally, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves he no longer deserves it. The front office and coaching staff seem confident that he’s capable of success, and ready to entrust him with a larger role, and for the time being I’m willing to provisionally take their word for it. And that’s not blind trust. They have a good track record with player development and targeting under-the-radar contributors.
Beyond that, several observations can be made in J-Ham’s favor or detriment. He definitely has range, but he’s also shown poor shot selection (to the extent that some have even compared him to J.R. Smith). He clearly has the knack for pulling down boards and the potential to be a great rebounding guard, but what he’s shown o defense so far leaves a lot to be desired. It’s my impression that his skill set is there, and that a lot of his negatives are coachable. If I’m right about this, then a lot of J-Ham’s 2012-13 success will ride on how good of a learner he is, and how receptive to coaching he is.
If he can learn to improve his shot selection and work within the flow of the offense, I think he’ll emerge as a relatively efficient shooter. If he can learn how to properly play in the team defense, rotate quickly, and play hard, he should be able to earn GK’s trust to keep him on the floor.
Thus far this summer, all signs point to him being dedicated to improvement, training hard and taking this opportunity seriously. Until we get a few weeks into the regular season, we won’t really get a clear picture of exactly what kind of NBA player Jordan Hamilton is developing into, but I’m cautiously optimistic that he’ll make some good progress in his sophomore year.
Below are two videos I compiled. The video of his Summer League performance against the Knicks is hot off the press, and is more of a “warts and all” clip reel. The rookie highlights vid is more of an “only the good stuff” reel. My video making skills are not very good, and I don’t do any of the analysis of the kind you’re used to hearing from Jeremy, but I hope you’ll enjoy them for what they’re worth.