Evaluating Jordan Hamilton and the trade deadline

If you’re a fan of the NBA, and/or human, there’s a good chance yesterday’s trade deadline left you wanting more. Evan Turner, Philadelphia’s leader scorer and a prolonged disappointment, was the best and most significant player dealt.

(That trade came at the price of Danny Granger’s feelings, when the Indiana Pacers removed his heart using the world’s sharpest grapefruit spoon, shipping a one-time franchise great from the only team he’s ever known—and a title favorite—to basketball’s own Ural Mountains. Feel better, Danny.)

Rajon Rondo did not end up in Houston. Omer Asik did not end up anywhere else. Names like Luol Deng, Iman Shumpert, Harrison Barnes, and Thaddeus Young were replaced by LaVoy Allen, Eric Maynor, Jan Vesely, and Andre Miller.

The league’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement has seen to it that draft picks and rookie scale contracts are treated with the utmost respect. Second only to the cross-cultural superstars recognized by your mother, young players who can contribute and produce without an eight figure salary are what the league is all about today. Most teams have no interest in acquiring a high-priced long-term contract, and that’s exactly what was for sale. This is fine, except when it compromises a trade deadline that at one point was entertaining theatre.

How was yesterday for Houston? The Rockets have Daryl Morey as their general manager, so of course they can proudly raise their hand as one of only a few teams to participate in an actual trade. As you already know from reading the opening line of this very article, Houston’s lone deal was uninspiring.

In exchange for third-string point guard Aaron Brooks, the Rockets received Jordan Hamilton, a below-average shooting guard from the Denver Nuggets.

A lot about this deal makes sense. With Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley comfortably holding things down at the point, Brooks was shut out of Houston’s rotation. They didn’t need him. Hamilton, on the other hand, is seven inches taller, six years younger, and can beef up what sometimes resembles a regrettable caliber of weaponry on the wing.

So, it’s time to learn more about Hamilton: strengths, weaknesses, what role he might fill, can he help in the playoffs, why his Twitter handle is so amazing, etc.

This has been Hamilton’s third season in the NBA, and his first with regular playing time. He’s appeared in 39 games with the Nuggets and started 11, averaging pedestrian numbers and shooting under 40% from the floor. The field goal percentage is bad, but shouldn’t be vilified. Even though he’s only shooting 34.9% from behind the arc this season, Hamilton’s three-point shot is likely what caught Morey’s eye. For every two field goals Hamilton attempted, one three-pointer was launched. Good news, considering he’s an eagle eye from the corner (46.7% on 30 attempts).

Thanks to Dwight Howard’s presence and Houston’s up and down style, Hamilton should see more open looks than ever before. He was already 39.5% on catch-and-shoot threes while playing in an average offense with no real playmakers aside from Ty Lawson and (maybe) Evan Fournier. That’s decent, not great. But it should rise even higher once he’s afforded more open looks off the play-making genius of Harden, Parsons, and Lin.

On defense, Hamilton’s numbers from mySynergySports are solid. He doesn’t get lost, makes timely help rotations whenever needed, possesses awareness that’d make James Harden blush (on second thought, this isn’t hard to do), and has assumed various assignments throughout the season, taking on Ricky Rubio one night and Luis Scola (for a brief stretch) the next. I guess you could call that versatility.

He isn’t a psychological pest like Tony Allen or Avery Bradley, but Hamilton does a sound job forcing his man to take jump shots off the dribble (except, according to lots of footage, when that man is Lance Stephenson). All in all he’s a so-so defender, but that still qualifies as a major upgrade over what Houston already has.

Brooks is the better player, but Hamilton brings Houston half a millimeter closer to a title, which is obviously why the deal HAD to be done. He’s 6’7” and an unrestricted free agent once the season ends, two factors that make him more valuable to Houston than Aaron Brooks, even though he isn’t fully realized as a talent.

But will Hamilton even play? The Nuggets were much better on offense with Hamilton on the bench. When he sat their efficiency level was equivalent to a top-10 unit. With him on the floor that figure dropped to the other end of the spectrum.

Ultimately, Omri Casspi and Francisco Garcia should pay the closest attention to this trade, as its one of those two (particularly Garcia) who Hamilton could eventually supplant in the rotation. Both have been inconsistent this season, and, in Garcia’s case, nearly useless when shots aren’t falling.

Hamilton’s ceiling appears to be that of a modestly athletic 3-and-D guy, which is exactly what Houston needs the most. The trade was uneventful, but that doesn’t mean Hamilton won’t have a moment in the playoffs.

Michael Pina is a writer for Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.

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