The NBA locked in November 18 as the official date for the 2020 Draft on Wednesday, and the San Antonio Spurs now have just about two months to scout prospects in preparation for their first lottery pick since 1997.
Aaron Nesmith, Saddiq Bey, and Aleksej Pokusevski are just a few of the more than a dozen players I’ve analyzed in the 2020 Draft Class, and next up is the electrifying prep-to-pro sensation RJ Hampton.
I covered this Texas hoops phenom in person during his time at Little Elm High School and continued to monitor his progress as a rising star for the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL, so let’s break down this intriguing teenage talent.
Had an awesome opportunity to cover ESPN Class of 2020 Top 5 recruit RJ Hampton (@RjHampton14) tonight! Watch him cut backdoor and finish with a reverse early in the first quarter! #Driven pic.twitter.com/c8Rk9pkUbl— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) February 9, 2019
RJ Hampton | New Zealand Breakers | Combo Guard
Weight: 181 lbs
Stats (15 GP)
Per Game: 8.8 PPG/3.9 RPG/2.4 APG/1.1 SPG/0.3 BPG
Per 36: 15.4 PPG/6.8 RPG/4.2 APG/1.9 SPG/0.6 BPG
Shooting Splits: .407 FG%/.295 3P%/.679 FT%
RJ Hampton differs from most of the prospects we’ve reviewed so far in that he appears to be more of a project player than a day-one contributor once he arrives in the NBA. Most of his effectiveness hinges on the development of other parts of his game, and several of his skills are more theoretical than concrete at the moment. And while he passed on the NCAA to compete in the NBL, the top professional league in Australia, he wasn’t particularly effective against grown men in his lone injury-abbreviated season abroad.
His lightning-quick first step and vertical explosiveness are his best weapons as he prepares to transition to the next level. Hampton is a smooth athlete with exceptional touch, body control, and change of direction, and his speed makes him a terror to contain once he gets downhill on drives. Despite the leaping ability to play above the rim, the 19-year-old combo guard lacks the strength to finish in traffic, and he almost exclusively utilizes his right-hand around the rim.
Although he doesn’t shy away from contact, RJ doesn’t draw many fouls (22.8% FTR), and he is easily knocked off course by larger guards as a result of his slight frame. For now, Hampton mitigates these issues with a wide array of fancy finishes at the basket, including euro-steps, floaters, runners, spin moves, and lots of English off the backboard. Overall he protects the ball relatively well and is comfortable dribbling with either hand, but he can get a little loose with his handle and rely too much on his speed instead of changing pace to shake defenders.
Regarding his position, Hampton is more of a combo guard than a true point guard or shooting guard, and his passing is predominantly reactive and often imprecise. He possesses decent court vision and showed some promise as a pick-and-roll ballhandler for the New Zealand Breakers, though his score-first mentality is probably better suited as a secondary playmaker. The Little Elm native flashed talent as a live-dribble and drive-and-kick passer, though he identified windows too late, telegraphed lobs, and frequently left his feet to make routine plays.
Learning to shoot the ball consistently will be the key to unlocking his ceiling, and while the form on his jumper is mechanically sound, his footwork leaves much to be desired. His feet are routinely unusually close together, throwing off his balance, though he could become a catch-and-shoot three-point threat if a franchise can resolve that problem. Hampton doesn’t offer much functionality as a movement shooter, and he needs to work on correcting his tendency to shoot on the way down on pull-ups. Regardless of these concerns, RJ largely played within his role in the NBL and rarely forced up bad looks.
Unfortunately for Spurs fans reading this breakdown, Hampton is perhaps the worst defender we’ve detailed thus far. Light feet, fluid hips, long arms, and quick reactions may sound like the perfect foundation for a defender, but RJ is fundamentally flawed in a handful of areas. Poor footwork, minimal effort, idle hands, and a propensity for standing upright instead of getting into a proper defensive stance leave the six-five guard susceptible to sieving points on a majority of possessions.
While RJ is noticeably more engaged when directly involved in the play, he regularly bites on crossovers, ball-fakes, and gambles for steals at the expense of creating a hole in the defense. Additionally, his spindly build and absence of physicality don’t provide much resistance when defending bigger guards or switching onto threes, fours, or fives. Hampton often waits for the action to come to him and shows little interest in getting back into the play once beat.
Hampton also does a less than satisfactory job of navigating screens, and he recurrently lost his assignment off backdoor cuts and motion as a product of ball-watching. RJ was a poor team defender who failed to make the correct rotations with consistency, and his overly aggressive closeouts produced wide-open driving lanes for the opposition. Though I’m not too concerned about the Spurs’ ability to mold him into a serviceable defender, I have doubts about RJ Hampton ever becoming a plus defender.
To check out more potential 2020 draft targets, click here.