RJ Hampton sent shockwaves through the basketball world when he chose to play for the Sky Sport Breakers rather than join a college programme in the States. Christopher Reive looks at how that set the young guard up for the 2020 NBA Draft.
Height: 6'5" (198cm)
Weight: 180lbs (81kg)
Wingspan: 6'7" (204cm)
Standing reach: 8'4" (256cm)
NBA comparisons: Donovan Mitchell, Zach LaVine, Spencer Dinwiddie
What we saw with the Breakers
1. Transition offence
With his long strides and decent speed, Hampton is a blur when he gets out in the open. With the height and bounce to go up and contest for defensive rebounds, he can start the break on his own or as the outlet for the rebounder. Hampton showed with the Breakers he can be a handful in transition, with the IQ to make the right play – be it attacking the rim or setting up a teammate.
2. Playmaking and pick-and-roll
In his first year as a professional, Hampton didn't look out of place when he was called upon to run the point. He has good court vision and ability to read the defence. While he had limited time as the first-choice playmaker, his play in the pick-and-roll was particularly impressive. His ability to slash to the rim off the dribble, coupled with a strong passing game, made him a handful even for the best defenders in the ANBL in pick-and-roll situations.
Coming into the ANBL, scoring was Hampton's bread and butter. He averaged 32 points per game in his 2018-19 campaign with Little Elm High School, earning Player of the Year honours in Texas, but coming into a professional team with more established talent saw his scoring take a hit. For the Breakers, he averaged 8.8 points per game, flashing his talent from all areas in limited opportunities; creating his own shots as well as finishing off set plays. Though his jump shot will need some work to be efficient against NBA defences, the fact he shot 41 per cent from the floor, including 30 per cent from three-point range, should make him an appealing candidate for a number of NBA teams.
1. Foot speed and length
The building blocks are there for Hampton to be a strong defender. Light on his feet and with the speed to stay in front of the opposition, add that to his 204cm wingspan and 256cm standing reach, he could develop into a terrific defender. That being said, he will need to work on his footwork so he can get the most out of his speed on defence, with sliding on the perimeter to stay in front of his man rather than crossing his feet one of the main parts of his game that needs addressing.
Despite his potential, his first season of professional basketball gave Hampton a glimpse at what it will be like to play in a men's league. One he adds to his frame he'll have more success keeping his man in front of him both on the perimeter and in the paint. Still only 19 years old, there's no doubt he'll add to his frame.
3. Positional play
During his time with the Breakers, Hampton was often picked off by screens, caught flat-footed, and had a tendency for closing out too aggressively and being unable to get back into the play if the defender faked him out. He'll benefit from the lessons of his first year in the professional game, but will head into the NBA still very much a raw prospect.
Three potential landing spots
Detroit Pistons – projected fifth overall pick by Bleacher Report
The Pistons have gone into full-on rebuild mode after moving superstar centre Andre Drummond and starting point guard Reggie Jackson during this season. As their roster stands, former league MVP Derrick Rose is their only established point guard, with oft-injured combo guard Brandon Knight coming off contract at the end of the season.
The Pistons have the pieces to space the floor, with sharpshooters Luke Kennard and Svi Mykhailiuk as well as superstar forward Blake Griffin who is dynamic in the pick-and-roll game. The prospect of Hampton running the pick-and-roll with Griffin is tantilising, while Hampton would provide a needed lift in pace to what has been a sluggish offence in recent years.
Hampton would fit right in as a backup ball handler to Rose, and would have the opportunity to learn from the former MVP before ultimately taking over as the starting point guard when Rose's contract expires after next season – if not before. Detroit shapes up as the ideal fit for Hampton.
Chicago Bulls – projected seventh overall pick
The Bulls appear to have found at least one guard for the future in the form of 2019 No 7 pick Coby White, who was beginning to come into his own as a scorer in the back end of his rookie season. The Bulls signed high-flying combo guard Zach LaVine to a sizeable deal ahead of the 2018-19 season which sees him on the books until 2022.
In a small-ball lineup, adding the speed and scoring ability of Hampton to the threats already posed by White and LaVine would be entertaining for Bulls fans. Chicago has a solid young core, adding star big men Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. down low. Hampton would be a very nice addition to this already promising group, though he would have to earn his playing time with a host of other guards on the roster.
Orlando Magic – projected 15th overall pick
Another team that desperately needs help on the offensive end, so someone with the transition game and all-around offensive ability has to be seriously considered. Defensively, the Magic are one of the best teams in the competition which would allow Hampton to find his footing. Former No 1 pick Markelle Fultz is the team's point guard for the foreseeable future, but Hampton could jump right in at shooting guard to provide a dynamic one-two punch. The Magic were among the worst teams in field goal percentage, three point percentage and offensive rating this season, which could be helped in some way, shape or form by Hampton's tempo.
Veteran guards DJ Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams are both off contract at the end of the current season, while swingman Evan Fournier could opt out of his contract, holding a player option for the 2020-21 season.
The Magic would no doubt consider Hampton with their earliest pick in the draft, however that is projected to be somewhere in the middle of the first round, so they would probably need to luck into – or trade up for – Hampton's signature.
The NBA draft is scheduled for June 26, with the draft lottery sorting the order of the first 15 teams to pick on May 20.