R.J. Hampton Scouting Report: Boom or Bust Prospect

Overall Impressions

R.J. Hampton spurned the NCAA college basketball system in favor of the NBL’s New Zealand Breakers. While teams like Kansas, Memphis, and Texas Tech were all in the running to sign Hampton, a five-star recruit, Hampton believed the NBL provided him the best opportunity to get meaningful playing experience and develop his game. Here he is a year later expected to be a first-round pick. However, Hampton didn’t shine during his time with the New Zealand Breakers. Consequently, scouts have raised concern over Hampton’s play given he didn’t compete against elite NBA-caliber players. Depending on where he falls – especially if he falls outside of the lottery, you could argue that playing overseas cost him millions in lost rookie earnings. I will be paying close attention to where R.J. Hampton falls in this draft as I expect other high school prospects thinking of playing overseas will too.

Overall, I struggle to put RJ Hampton in the lottery. He has a lot of glaring weaknesses including his defensive effort, defensive footwork, shot selection, shooting footwork, and offensive playmaking. Outside of being an elite athlete and using that athleticism on downhill drives, he isn’t elite an any specific category. Guys like LaMelo Ball and Killian Hayes are elite passers while guys like Issac Okoro and Onyeka Okongwu are the draft’s premier defenders. It worries me that Hampton doesn’t have an elite skill to fall back. With serious questions about his effort on both ends of the court, I question whether he will reach his full potential.

Statistics

PTSREBASTSTLBLKFG%3PT%FT%TO
8.83.12.41.10.30.4070.2950.6791.5

Given he only played 20 minutes a game in the NBL, RJ Hampton put up decent numbers. He finished the season with 8.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. He also impressed in the steals category, averaging an impressive 1.1 steals per game. However, he only averaged .3 blocks per game, which is fair for a point guard, but his 6’5’’ height made me wish for more. Moreover, Hampton failed to shoot higher than 30 percent from three and/or 70 percent from the free-throw line. With these shooting splits, I worry about his capacity to become an elite shooter in the NBA.

Pros

The biggest strength I see when watching RJ Hampton is his athleticism. He simply blows by defenders during transition opportunities posing the threat of going coast to coast and finishing with a tenacious dunk. He further displays this athleticism with his ability to change speeds and direction with fluidity – similar to Russell Westbrook’s full-court drives. Coaches will fall in love with the versatility he offers in transition. These kinds of energizers get the crowd involved forcing coaches to settle things down with a timeout. I can see Hampton providing this spark day one.

He’s also really good at driving to the basket in half-court sets. He patiently waits for the screen to catch his man off guard and sprints right past him. Once in the paint, his body control comes into play as he seamlessly shifts around opposing big men.

On pick and rolls, he’s comfortable beating his guy off the dribble to the basketball or kicking it back out to the open big man. He excels at the easy reads often catching the airborne center in perfect stride for a ferocious dunk. While he needs to become a better shooter to maximize his pick and roll efficiency, this is an area he can immediately contribute to on a team. With a decent shot, a balanced pick and roll game, and an ability to finish at the rim, Hampton could grow into an offensive threat.

Cons

The biggest cons with R.J. Hampton are on defense. Hampton struggles mightily with his footwork and positioning, often giving up wide-open driving lanes. He’s a slow lateral mover whose heavy feet make him fall behind quick athletic guards. He’s not an established blocker so when he losses his man, there’s no real way he can make it up. Instead, Hampton will occasionally foul the man that gets past him.

Hampton also struggles with help defense. With the Breakers, Hampton failed to read opposing offenses and understand his rotations on help defense. He showed poor effort when fighting through screens, which, with his bad footwork, would usually lose his entire man for good that possession. If he bulks, he may get more confidence when driving through these screens. However, the main concern is effort. He doesn’t play hard on defense, often falling asleep when assigned to the corner shooter. Hampton doesn’t close out with the effort needed to impact shots and, again, lacks the desire to fight through screens. Hampton needs to improve his defensive effort if he wants considerable playing time in the NBA.

On offense, Hampton can make spectacular plays. He occasionally makes the right read and can fling the ball from halfcourt for impressive alley-oops. However, this isn’t the norm. Instead, Hampton is usually a step late on passes and often makes the telegraphed pass on transition. Getting more repetition will help his passing game. He has the innate vision and passing skills to be a playmaker.

Lastly, R.J. Hampton shows the potential to become a great shooter in his shot mechanics. However, his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. He places his feet too close together while also loading a lot of pressure on his knees. He leans back on his shot and doesn’t have a fluid landing. If his lower body mechanics can get better, I think his shooting splits will rise quickly. Also, improvement in this area will open up his entire offensive arsenal. Defenders will be forced to lock in on Hampton during pick and rolls which leaves the one-on-one situations for both Hampton and his roller. The potential is there; it’s onto Hampton to improve his level of play and energy.

Best Team Fit

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas MavericksI had to put R.J. Hampton’s hometown team on this list. But in all honestly, RJ Hampton fits perfectly with the Mavs. He gets the comfort of playing close to home and can relate to the international experiences of so many of the Mavericks players. Hampton plays well in the pick and roll and could become a secondary pick and roll option with Dwight Powell or Kristaps Porzingis when Luka Doncic sits. What’s nice about the Mavericks is their depth and versatility. With Doncic, Curry, and Hardaway Jr. leading the backcourt, Hampton gets the time to focus on developing his game without the pressure of contributing heavy minutes and workload as a rookie. He gets to sit behind one of the best passers in the NBA in Luka Doncic while learning from one of the best coaches in the league, Rick Carlisle. Rick Carlisle commands work ethic, which I think could help Hampton to maximize his potential in various areas of his game.

Player Comparison

I think R.J. Hampton is a mix between Jordan Clarkson and Dante Exum. Hampton shares Dante Exum’s elite athleticism and verticality. Both use their vertical advantages to make plays at the rim and athleticism to change speed and direction at an elite pace. Similarly, both player’s most impressive offensive trait is their ability to get to the basket and finish with creativity. Moreso, Exum, came into the league with good shooting mechanics, but similar shooting splits to Hampton. Sadly, Exum never figured out his shot. I fear the same result for Hampton.

However, Exum and Hampton isn’t the perfect comparison due to Exum’s refined defense coming into the league. Hampton is nowhere near Exum’s level on the defensive side of the ball which, again, has me concerned. Instead, Hampton’s defense reminds me of Jordan Clarkson, a similarly sized point guard. Both struggle with footwork and don’t make the effort to navigate screens. Clarkson always seems to fall asleep on defense, something Hampton mirrors. They’re often a step late to rotations and don’t have the physicality to make up for their mistakes. Hampton mirrors Exum’s athleticism but Clarkson’s troublesome defense. I think Hamptom’s a good hybrid of the two players. He won’t reach Clarkson’s offense threshold nor Exum’s defensive prowess but could get close to both.

Draft Range

While I’m rooting for R.J. Hampton, his lack of elite skills or intangibles coming worries me. While his stats were average, he achieved this against lesser competition in the NBL. I can’t tell how he would have performed had it been against BIG12 or BIG10 competition but having this lack of a measuring stick without eye-opening stats or skills leaves a lot to be desired. I hope he proves me and other scouts wrong and puts in the work. If he can improve his shooting to become somewhat of a threat, his offensive game will blossom. However, shooting is one of the hardest skills to improve in the NBA, which if playing a de-facto GM, I would be wary to risk it on Hampton. I have him in the 15-20 range, just outside the lottery.

  
Miles Jasper is an incoming law student studying employment and labor law. Miles’ passions lie within the salary cap, collective bargaining, and labor relations between leagues and their players. He also likes to analyze college prospects and participate in fantasy sports. In his free time, Miles is an avid runner who also enjoys poker, cooking, and watching movies.

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