RJ Hampton has found his home in the NBA.
The 19-year-old guard who spent the 2019-20 Australian NBL season with the New Zealand Breakers, is set to join the Denver Nuggets after being selected 24th overall in the first round of the 2020 draft.
The pick initially sat with the Milwaukee Bucks, who then traded it to the New Orleans Pelicans yesterday as part of a wider package. That pick was again swapped on draft night with the Nuggets, seeing Hampton taken by the Colorado franchise.
It brings an end to a long wait to fulfill a lifelong dream for the teenager. Had the Covid-19 pandemic not affected the NBA calendar, Hampton would have been celebrating such an occasion in June instead of November.
He joins a team who just two months ago was contending in the NBA's Western Conference finals against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, ultimately going down in five games.
The trade to Denver remains in principal as it is yet to be officially cleared by NBA legal.
Hampton will join perennial All-NBA talent Nikola Jokić and star guard Jamal Murray, as well as a host of noteworthy role players including Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig.
He will play under well-respected coach Michael Malone, who has a coaching record of 162-108 across the last three seasons with the Nuggets.
The Texas-native's ability on the offensive end has been revered, with many pre-draft experts raving about his mixture of speed and length, making him an asset in the paint. His shooting could do with some work, but that has likely improved after working out with former NBA champion and three-point sharpshooter Mike Miller leading up to the draft.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas spoke highly of Hampton after he was selected, mentioning his decision to play down-under last year.
"He's a blur in the open court, he's going to be one of the fastest players in the NBA from the day he steps foot in this league. He's 6 ft. 6, he's explosive," Bilas says.
"[He] really benefited from his season out in New Zealand, he told me it allowed him to grow up. He's already been through that rookie hurdle, so he's going to be more well-suited to join the NBA game."
Hampton did slide somewhat, falling outside the top 20 where he himself believed he would be selected. Multiple outlets predicted him to be selected in the teens as well.
His one year in the NBL delivered a stat line of 8.8 points 3.9 rebounds in 20.6 minutes a game, in a total of 15 appearances. Bear in mind he was a five star recruit coming out of high school, and his experiences in a professional league as opposed to college will be unique to he and LaMelo Ball out of this year's draft.
Ball, the other player to be drafted having spent last season in the NBL with the Illawarra Hawks, was taken third by the Charlotte Hornets.
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected first overall, taking guard Anthony Edwards out of Georgia. Golden State Warriors, who not so long ago were NBA Champions in three out of four years, grabbed centre James Wiseman out of Memphis with the second pick.