According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Denver Nuggets have acquired the 24th overall pick from the New Orleans Pelicans and will use it to select R.J. Hampton of the New Zealand Breakers.

Hampton joins Zeke Nnaji as selections by the Nuggets in tonight’s draft. The Nuggets last had multiple first round picks in 2016 when they selected Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley. With only 9 players currently on the roster the Nuggets clearly looked to address depth while also picking up high ceiling prospects in the draft. Hampton is more the latter than the former for Denver.

A five star recruit and frequent member of USA Basketball, Hampton was one of the highest touted prospects coming out of high school with some believing he was headed towards being the number one overall pick in the 2020 draft. He changed course after being heavily recruited by some of the best college basketball programs in the country however and elected to takes his game to the NBL in Australia. Unlike LaMelo Ball, who also decided to forgo college for the NBL, Hampton was not able to maintain his high draft profile once in the Oceanic league. He struggled to play in a more physical league filled with professionals and dealt with a hip injury that sidelined him for several games. Ultimately his draft stock took a slide.

At pick 24 Hampton is still good value, despite his falling draft stock. Some mock drafts had him projected to be a selection in the teens. He will become the latest in a pattern of young players with high ceilings that the Nuggets are willing to take their time on while he develops. It will be quite the surprise if Hampton gets any notable playing time in his rookie season with Denver as he sits behind a slew of guards who have proven themselves to coach Michael Malone as rotation level players in the NBA. Hampton is also just 19 years of age.

What he’ll bring to the Nuggets, beyond depth and potential, is length and athleticism at the point guard position. Hampton’s wingspan measures at 6’7” and he uses that length and his quickness to harass opposing guards. On offense he is an effective slasher and finisher. Where he struggles is with shooting, barely scraping above 40% from the floor in the NBL. Hampton gives the Nuggets options moving forward in terms of backup point guards. In many ways he is somewhat redundant to P.J. Dozier, but with Monte Morris heading into the final year of his contract and Dozier’s final year of his contract in 21/22 non-guaranteed Hampton gives the Nuggets long term depth and security at the backup point guard slot.

According to Andrew Lopez and Zach Lowe of ESPN, the pick Denver traded will not convey to the Pelicans until at least 2023 and is lottery protected.

Tim Connelly and the Nuggets front office clearly felt that Hampton was a player who fit what they are trying to build, given that they surrendered a future first round pick to get him. It remains to be seen if that gamble will pay off but with the Nuggets looking like a team that will compete deep into the playoffs for many years to come it seems unlikely that the pick they traded to select Hampton will fall much higher than 24th overall, if not lower. Here’s hoping Hampton finds success in a Nuggets uniform, at least more so than the last time they took a player 24th overall…that was Tyler Lydon.

All in all a low risk high reward pick for the Nuggets which is their draft modus operandi these days. Perhaps the biggest immediate impact that can be gleaned from Denver selecting not one but two first rounders is that they will most likely not be looking to make big moves in free agency given they just occupied two fully guaranteed roster spots with rookies (first round pick contracts are guaranteed for the first two seasons). This is a smart move financially for the Nuggets who have very limited room under the luxury tax threshold, but will also leave them in a precarious position should their depth be needed and either Hampton or Nnaji sees significant playing time as a rookie. Time will tell.

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