NBA Draft 2020 Profile: R.J. Hampton has elite potential

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

With the NBA Draft tipping off on Wednesday, Nuggets.com takes a look at draft prospects who have been heavily-linked to the team in mock drafts.
 
Timing and situational luck can often be the difference between being a lottery pick or falling outside of it. 
 
Take R.J. Hampton for example. The 6-foot-5 point guard was considered to be the fifth-best prospect in the nation following his time at Little Elm High School. Similar to fellow NBA Draft class hopeful LaMelo Ball, Hampton decided to forgo some of his high school eligibility and start his professional career overseas in the NBL. Ahead of the 2019-20 NBL, both Ball and Hampton were odds-on favorites to be selected within the first five picks of the 2020 draft. Yet, while Ball largely excelled in his sole season in Australia, Hampton had injury issues which limited his game-time and might have potentially affected his performances when he did play. 
 
Although Hampton’s time with the New Zealand Breakers might have slightly affected his draft stock, make no mistake, he’s still an elite NBA prospect under the right circumstances. Under the right coaching and scheme, his size, speed, athleticism and natural talent could make him a two-way threat in the NBA. 
 
Here’s more about Hampton: 
 
Age: 19
Team: New Zealand Breakers
Position: Point Guard
 Height: 6-foot-5
 Weight: 181 pounds
 
2019-20 Stats: 
 PPG: 8.8
 RPG: 3.9
 APG: 2.4
 FG: 40.7
 3PT: 29.5
 
NBA Comparison: Dante Exum/Jordan Clarkson 

PROFILE: Hampton has all of the physical tools to be an NBA mainstay. Point guards who are his height are rare, which means he will definitely be a first round pick. The key for Hampton is improving his decision making and long-range shooting. 
 
During his sole season with New Zealand, Hampton showed glimpses of his vast potential but he didn’t dominate or have complete games in the way many observers expected him to. Although he has great mechanics on his shot, he wasn’t converting at a high rate allowing defenses to sag off him. Also, Hampton’s playmaking wasn’t as robust as it was during his time in high school. 
 
Still, for a team like the Nuggets, Hampton could be a great pick if he’s still available at No. 22. Nuggets President of Basketball Operations has insisted whoever he drafts will be slowly introduced into the rotation and might not see much action in their first year. Although that might not be what some prospects want to hear, it could be the ideal situation for Hampton to refine his game and become a solid contributor. With Denver employing more plays with Jamal sliding to the shooting guard slot, it isn’t hard to envision the team wanting another playmaker aside from Monte Morris and PJ Dozier to spell minutes at the point guard position. 

What they're saying: 

Positives: 

"Good size and length for position with a 6’7 wingspan and 8’4 standing reach … Very good ball handler. Creates and breaks down the defense off the dribble; effectively uses his crossover, changing direction/speed, and knows how to shift his defender. Can fit in tight spaces and gets where he wants with the ball. Good pick and roll ball handler." 

-NBADraft.net

Negatives: 

"Despite nice looking shooting mechanics, he struggles both with his accuracy and willingness to shoot the three-ball. This reluctance has led defenses in the NBL to often go under screens to dare him to shoot. 

Defensively he has a combination of athleticism and instincts that create the potential of a high-level defensive player. Presently, he lacks upper body strength to hold his position defensively as well as the ability to finish and draw fouls." 

- NBA.com

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