R.J. Hampton, SG, New Zealand Breakers
Weight: 188 lbs
Age: 19 (2/7/2001)
R.J. Hampton College Stats
|2019-20||New Zealand||NBL Australia||au||15||20.6||.407||.295||.679||0.7||3.1||3.9||2.4||1.1||0.3||1.5||8.8|
Unlike a fair number of the prospects in this class, Hampton is still on the younger side of the spectrum. He won’t turn 20 until February of next year, which gives Denver an even longer timetable to develop the young guard. With established players in Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Monte Morris, along with the developing P.J. Dozier, Hampton would have no rush to play right away while still being young when he takes the floor.
Hampton isn’t coming out onto the floor with overwhelming length, but he has shown a great knack for getting his hands onto balls and coming away with steals. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 1.9 takeaways. Among rotation players for Denver last season, that would have ranked number one over defensive star Gary Harris.
An area of the game that the Nuggets have consistently been outdone over the last few seasons has been rebounding by the guards. They have great rebounders in the frontcourt, but, among rotation guards last season, Jamal Murray was your leader with 4.5 boards per 36 minutes. Hampton averaged 6.3 rebounds per 36 minutes during his previous season. Those extra possessions make the difference late in the game.
While Hampton isn’t an outstanding shooter, he fits in on offense as a slasher. Hampton’s athleticism and burst allow him to catch the ball and get to the rim quickly. Playing off of a guy like Jokic would allow him to cut and catch the ball in rhythm for easy dunks. If his 3-point shot never catches on, he’ll need to really excel in this area of his game.
Any time a guard struggles with free throws, it should make you nervous. Struggles at the free-throw line traditionally lead to struggles from other areas of the floor. Hampton, in a limited sample size, was just terrible at the line. He shot just 67.9 percent there. It could be an oddity, but it is a definite concern at this stage.
Unless something dramatically changes, Hampton is never going to be a great long-range gunner. He shot just 29.5 percent from 3-point range during his lone season in the Australian league, and that’s not the way that he does his damage. He wants to get into the lane and score with athleticism. That could cause some issues around Nikola Jokic, who likes having space to operate.
Hampton is great at getting steals. I mentioned that previously, but one of the reasons he does that is he takes a lot of chances. He averaged 3.4 fouls per 36 minutes. As a guy off the bench, that’s not the worst thing, but he’s not a permanent bench guy. You’re hoping a first-round pick will get into the starting lineup. If teams know they can catch him reaching and drawing fouls, they will take advantage of that.
Projected Draft Range: Mid-to-Late First
Denver Stiffs Big Board: 25th overall
NBA Comparison: Dante Exum
Why Hampton makes sense for Denver
If you want to move on from Harris without experiencing a major step back on defense, Hampton is a good fit. Harris is still the superior defender, especially at their respective stages of their career. Harris is one of the most expensive players on the roster, and he doesn’t bring you much on the offensive end of the floor that you wouldn’t get from Hampton.
He’s younger than Harris, and he’s less likely to deal with injuries. With someone like Michael Porter Jr. on the roster, he’s going to need to be paid at some point, and, when that happens, you would need to move on from Harris anyway. Drafting Hampton to develop behind Harris before taking over you move on from him seems to fit.
Why Hampton doesn’t make sense for Denver
He’s not a good shooter, and his issues at the free-throw line show that this could be a legitimate issue rather than some hiccups. This roster is built around Jokic and his ability to hit shooters on the outside. He can hit Hampton all day long, but, if he isn’t able to knock down those shots, it doesn’t matter how good of a passer Jokic is.
This team is trying to compete right now after the strong show they put on this year, and it’s clear that Hampton still has some developing to do. Harris is “older” at 26, but he’s still not even through his prime. He’s the starter, and he was a key cog for them in the playoffs. If they’re not trying to move him, Hampton shouldn’t be your guy.
Hampton makes a good amount of success for Denver because he gives them additional guard depth. He also gives them a good defensive guard off the bench, unlike someone like Monte Morris. One of the things that works against the case for Hampton is that he may well be off the board at their pick. He’s been a popular pick for the Portland Trail Blazers with the 16th pick in mock drafts, and there are a few other guard-needy teams in that mix as well.
P.J. Dozier is also still on this team, and, after playing decently in the playoffs, there is a path to him joining the rotation next season. If that were to happen, Hampton would hardly ever see the floor. This team needs more depth on wings along with in the frontcourt. He brings some value, but it’s unlikely that he’s super high on their priority list.