Heading into the 2020 NBA Draft, R.J. Hampton presents as an intriguing prospect.
Foregoing the opportunity to play college basketball, Hampton signed with the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League, turning pro as an 18-year-old.
The 6'5" point guard averaged 8.8 points and 2.4 assists across 15 appearances for the Breakers, at times showing flashes of his potential in what was a difficult season for the New Zealand based team overall.
With size and length, Hampton fits the bill of a modern day guard. An explosive first step and ability to get to the basket stand out, as does his defensive cabailities that saw him average a steal a game for the Breakers.
One question mark that hovers over Hampton's longterm projection is his outside shot that saw him connect on just 30 percent of his attempts from 3-point range.
Our own Kyle Irving has Hampton falling at pick no.16, while Eric Fawcett has him dropping at pick no.19.
Pegged to go anywhere between 12-20, we are going to take a look at the five franchises that make the most sense for the developing guard.
Pick No. 12 - Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings present as an interesting landing spot for Hampton.
While De'Aaron Fox is the long term starter at the point guard position, the Kings still project to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Western Conference playoff picture in 2021.
With uncertainty surrounding the future of restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic and potential trade chip in Buddy Hield, the Kings are still in a position where they need to continue to develop talent and minutes at the guard position could surface as the season progresses.
Ranking 19th for pace in 2019-20, the Kings need to speed up their offence with Fox at the helm, and Hampton's defensive tools combined with his ability to push the tempo in transition seems like a perfect fit.
Pick 12 might be a little bit of a reach for a franchise that has multiple holes on the roster but in theory it makes sense.
Pick No. 13 - New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans new coach Stan Van Gundy loves defence.
The Pelicans franchise star Zion Williamson loves transition offence.
Both of those present a nice fit for Hampton moving forward.
While there is no doubt the Pelicans will be setting their sights on the 2021 postseason with a healthy Zion, the chance for Hampton to join a talented young core that includes Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Jaxson Hayes among others is a mouth watering prospect.
I would have to imagine Hampton would also like the sound of throwing lobs to Williamson for years to come..
Pick No.15 - Orlando Magic
It's time for the Orlando Magic to draft a guard.
The last time the Magic used a first-round pick on a true guard was 2013 when Victor Oladipo was named with the No.2 pick. Since that night Orlando have selected Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba just to name a few.
Evan Fournier has a player option for next season and DJ Augustin and his 24.9 minutes of production are set to hit free agency, leaving the Markelle Fultz reclamation project and Terrence Ross as the only rotation guards from last season on the roster.
Despite making the postseason the last two campaigns, the Magic have largely been making up the numbers and look likely to be in a position to continue to develop talent in 2021.
While pairing Fultz with another below average shooter in Hampton might not be ideal, the Magic would present the teenager with perhaps his best opportunity at regular rotation minutes in his rookie season.
Pick No. 17 - Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves will enter 2021 with new hope, pairing Karl Anthony-Towns with D'Angelo Russell as the cornerstones of their franchise. Outside of Russell, the guard rotation is somewhat on an unknown, with Malik Beasley set to become a restricted free agent, while Josh Okogie and Jacob Evans remain on their rookie deals.
Overall, the T-Wolves held the 24th ranked offence and 20th ranked defence last season, falling away to finish the season 19-45 after a 4-1 start.
Ultimately Minnesota will be looking for continuity with the roster, having played 24 players last season and only getting 12 appearances out of Russell before the season was suspended.
With the uncertainty around the guard positions, Minnesota could be a nice landing spot for Hampton to see some action next season.
Pick No. 20 - Miami Heat
Typically a team coming of an NBA Finals appearance would be the last place a developmental talent would want to go if playing time was the main goal. BUT, this is the Miami Heat, and you only have to look as far as last season to find evidence of their ability to develop young stars in real time.
Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn combined for over 3000 minutes and 1700 points in their rookie seasons, becoming a huge part of Erik Spoelstra's system in Miami. While the guard position is deep with talent, perhaps it's the Duncan Robinson path that should provide the most optimism for a Hampton career with the Heat.
Originally undrafted and going to work in the G League, Robinson honed his craft under the tutulage of Heat staff, before eventually exploding on to the scene in 2019-20 to become one of the most deadly outside threats in the NBA.
While on court playing time may be sparse in the early going, there is possibly no better developmental space to enter the league than Miami right now.
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