A superstar on the Nike EYBL circuit in high school R.J. Hampton has been on the 2020 NBA Draft radar for quite some time. Usually, the fastest player on the court who also happens to stand 6'5" he was considered as one of the top players in his age group since his freshman year of high school. For that reason, it was huge news when he announced he would forgo the typical NCAA route to instead play in the NBL in Australia.
Playing against older professionals his physical gifts were made apparent but a hip injury sidelined him before he was really able to get into a rhythm. There are going to be some teams that love the idea of him as a prospect due to his high school pedigree, while others won't be so high after seeing lackluster basketball from him in his most recent sample. Fellow one-and-done NBL talent LaMelo Ball was able to be productive in his single year down under but Hampton was no more than a rotation piece, something that will raise eyebrows.
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Every year NBA general managers have the difficult task of weighing production versus potential and they'll have their hands full with one of the most enigmatic players in the draft-R.J. Hampton.
If you were to line up every player in this draft class and make them race the length of the court, the smart bet would be on Hampton to win.
An absolute blur in transition he was a one-man fast break in the NBL and created a huge amount of easy buckets off turnovers, long rebounds, and even made baskets. The ability to score in transition against a defence that isn't set makes Hampton a player who can get buckets without needing a play called for him. When he gets the ball and takes it 94 feet for a layup four seconds into the shot clock those points can feel like found money.
What makes Hampton's speed so special is that he's 6'5". When you think of quick players in the NBA your mind will go right to 6'0" or 6'1" guards and Hampton brings that level of velocity but with superior length.
That length helps him finish around shot blockers at the rim with a creative package of layups, but it's not just buckets that his length is good for. Hampton really knows how to employ his long arms defensively and it can make it difficult for smaller guards to figure out how to get around him. Using his length he can steer and manipulate ball-handlers away for their desired path and if they lose focus for even a split second Hampton can poke it away and dunk the ball on the other end before his opponent realizes they got their pocket picked.
When the game slows down Hampton's biggest offensive strength is his touch in the midrange. His speed will often get him into the middle of the floor and when he meets opposition he has one of the purest midrange strokes in the class and if his momentum is still rapidly moving forward he has impeccable touch with the floater.
How Hampton's game translates to the NBA is definitely a bit of a question mark.
Unquestionably his best two skills are his ability to score in transition and his ability to score in the midrange. Unfortunately, those aren't skills that are entirely functional to the modern NBA game.
More and more we're seeing teams retreat defensively instead of offensively rebounding and in doing so it's becoming difficult for transition-reliant players to get scores. Additionally, playing fast inherently makes for more turnovers and that's something NBA teams don't have much patience for. Hampton, like many players who play at a breakneck pace, is prone to turnover problems and his hectic style of play won't be desirable to some NBA coaches.
Hampton was a below-average shooter in high school and hit 30% of his threes in Australia so his outside jumper is going to be in question. His stroke is tailored towards feel and accuracy in the midrange (similar to, say, DeMar DeRozan) but it doesn't translate to the deep shooting of an NBA three.
In Hampton a team is going to get one of the best scorers in transition and the midrange in the draft, but what exactly is that worth? This is why he'll be one of the most fascinating storylines on draft night.
Projected NBA Draft Position: 9-14
Projected NBA Role: Fourth or fifth starter.
NBA Comparison: Will Barton
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.