One of the fastest players in the 2020 NBA Draft, R.J. Hampton took an unusual path, electing to spend the last year in Australia playing for New Zealand in the NBL. Could he still be available when the Milwaukee Bucks are on the clock around the 20th overall pick?
New Zealand (From Texas)
Weight: 188 pounds
Per Game Stats:
There’s no questioning whether Hampton has the athleticism to succeed in the NBA. His speed, quick first step and ability to get off the floor quickly are some of the biggest strengths in his game. Potential oozes out of every pore. However, it’s his basketball skills that will define how far he goes at the next level. He has a lot of work to do to develop his jumper, defensive fundamentals and the finer things in his game. Let’s take a deep dive and see what he offers on the basketball court.
Speed: Hampton’s speed is electric, as he can fly up and down the court either leading the fast break or sprinting the floor for an easy bucket. He puts constant pressure on opponents and has begun harnessing his superpower in the half court as well. Although questions about his shot persist (more on that later), his ability to attack the rim will be his calling card in the NBA.
First Step: Not only does he fly with a head of steam, he gets to that top speed quick as hell. He can go from zero to 100 faster than anybody in this class whether it be from the triple threat position or off a dribble hesitation. This gives him an advantage before anything even happens—you best know defenses fear his quick first step and anticipate it.
Playmaking Potential: Hampton describes himself as a playmaker, and there’s definitely the possibility he gets there. He flashed moments in Australia where he made beautiful and timely reads that resulted in buckets or open looks for his teammates. There were other times he struggled to read basic pick-and-roll defenses and make the correct decision. If he can improve his savviness, he has the physical tools to create easy shots for his guys.
Areas for Improvement
Shot: It’s safe to say Hampton did not impress when it came to shooting the ball with New Zealand—he only made 29.5 percent of his threes and, even more concerning, a putrid 67.9 percent of his free throws. His mechanics look solid from the waist up; the issue is his footwork. He often has a narrow base, bringing his feet awkwardly close together. Defenders can neutralize his speed by laying off him and comfortably going under ball screens. He’ll have a difficult time penetrating a packed lane until he can become an adequate shooter.
Defensive Engagement: Theoretically, he has all the tools to become a good defensive player in the NBA—good lateral quickness, ability to quickly change directions and length. However, he doesn’t seem to care much about that end of the court. He basically stops on contact from a lot of screens, taking himself out of the play instead of fighting through and staying engaged. Part of this is due to a lack of strength, but also a lack of will.
- Good Euro-step
- Flashes good reads, vision and passing
- Is way too high in his defensive stance
- Sometimes sticks too close to his man off-ball
- At his best when attacking the hoop in both transition and the half court
- Heavily prefers his right hand when finishing
- Crafty finisher—likes to use the rim to protect his shot and adds plenty of english
- Sometimes tries to do too much and drives into a clogged lane
Zach LaVine without the insane hops.
Hampton had a difficult season with New Zealand, but that’s to be expected given the advanced competition he faced and exactly what he signed up for. In the long run, it could be very beneficial to his development.
For starters, he got a taste of what his role should be like in the NBA. After dominating the rock in high school, he was more of an off-ball threat with secondary ball-handling duties in Australia.
Hampton flashed the type of passing and vision that makes scouts drool. He just didn’t do it nearly enough. For every time he made a great read, there was another example he got caught in the air with the ball, tried to drive into a crowded lane or made other sloppy decisions.
Still, you can’t ignore that speed. He can straight fly. Whether it’s in transition or the half court, he’s at his best when he’s attacking the rim. He can beat just about anyone off the bounce—especially with his lightning-quick first step. He proved to be a crafty finisher as well; often relying on putting heavy english on his shots to compensate for his lack of strength necessary to finish through contact.
Just how far he makes it in the NBA will likely depend on how far his shot advances. There’s cause for optimism he could become a solid shooter (good mechanics in the upper body), but his low free throw percentage still looms large. He’ll have a tough career if he can’t improve his outside shot.
He has all the tools to become a plus defender. He has great lateral quickness and the length to disrupt ball-handlers. He’ll mostly guard 1s and 2s, giving him a height advantage on most point guards.
His intensity and willingness to play defense lacks, however, as he’s extremely Laissez-faire. His stance is too upright and his role on that end often concludes the first time he runs into a screen. Improving his strength will certainly help here.
At first glance, it appears there’s no way the Bucks would have a chance at landing Hampton in the draft. I think it might be more plausible than we originally thought. He’s at no. 10 on ESPN’s Draft Board, 14 on The Ringer’s but 20 on The Athletic’s.
Hampton would be an odd fit in Milwaukee, as they prefer players who can stretch the floor and play good defense. However, if he falls, his upside would be too hard to pass up. He’d give them another guy to put pressure on the rim, potentially replacing Bledsoe in that role as he ages into his 30s. It’s something worth watching.