The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and the 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Today’s profile focuses on guard RJ Hampton, a prospect that bypassed college to play in Australia’s NBL with the New Zealand Breakers. Hampton, who possesses the athleticism typically found in players selected inside the top five, is projected to fall somewhere in the mid-to-late lottery.
- Height: 6’5”
- Weight: 188
- Wingspan: 6’7”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: G
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 8-18
*15 games in the NBL
- PTS: 8.8 | Per 36: 15.4
- REB: 3.9 | Per 36: 6.8
- AST: 2.4 | Per 36: 4.2
- STL: 1.1 | Per 36: 1.9
- FG%: 40.7
- 3P%: 29.5
- FT%: 67.9
Hampton’s NBA potential is bolstered by his explosive first step that allows him to get downhill quickly and effectively. Once he gets past his initial defender, the 19-year-old guard displays a fluid and natural finishing ability. If he faces a smaller defender at the rim or is granted an open lane, Hampton can quickly launch from either leg into a dunk. When facing a traditional rim protector, he shields the ball and creates space with his body until a window is presented for a layup. In transition, Hampton’s athletic gifts are on full display. He works to find open lanes on the break and quickly turns those opportunities into momentum-shifting finishes. As a facilitator, his stellar burst should allow him to blossom into a pick-and-roll threat.
Defensively, Hampton’s length and athleticism should allow him to pick up multiple assignments at the next level. On the boards, he is a solid rebounder for a player at his position.
A quick look at Hampton’s shooting splits reveals an obvious flaw: his lack of outside shooting. A combination of poor footwork and less-than-ideal release mechanics plagued Hampton’s shooting output last season. As of now, Hampton’s offensive game is fairly one dimensional.
According to a report from The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, Hampton has focused on re-constructing his shooting form in the aftermath of his brief NBL career. Under the guidance of former NBA sharpshooter Mike Miller, Hampton has re-tooled his shot from the ground up. Miller explained to Vecenie that it is promising to see the 19 year old focus on corrections early in his career.
“The biggest thing for him is that he’s bought in this early,” Miller told The Athletic. “If you’re in the discussions to be a lottery pick in the NBA, you’ve really got to humble yourself to be willing to break down your jumper and change it. I’ve worked with a ton of guards the last seven, eight years of my career, where coaches and GMs ask me, ‘Hey, can you work with this kid?’ And that’s typically in Year Three or Four in the league, after they’ve had some struggles. If you’re willing to buy in now, and repeat it now, and don’t get bored with it, you’re going to see some significant jumps in percentages.”
Outside of his shot form, Hampton is not an instinctual facilitator. He rarely makes passes that are a step ahead of defensive adjustments.
Defensively, Hampton’s upside is purely theoretical. He too often gets caught on screens and he has unusually tight hips for an athlete of his caliber. That combination leads to easy scoring opportunities for opposing guards. Off the ball, Hampton is late to rotate and routinely gets caught out of position.
Hampton entered the recruiting process as the No. 5 prospect on ESPN’s 100 for the 2019 class. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Memphis all presented offers to the Texas native. Instead of following the traditional route, Hampton opted to play professionally in the NBL with the New Zealand Breakers. He appeared in 15 games and faced a steep learning curve against professional athletes. While that experience will pay dividends in the long run, it is tough to argue that it helped Hampton’s short-term draft stock. Under different circumstances, it is feasible to project that he would have been a top-five option in the 2020 draft class.
Supreme athletes with size and shot-creating prowess don’t fall from the sky frequently. If he lands in the right situation, Hampton’s flaws are identifiable and correctable. It is tough to buy too much stock in his fully transformed shot form, but it is promising that he is investing in a significant overhaul of those issues. Hampton is a project and his upside is undeniable. In five years, I would not be shocked to see Hampton emerge as the best player from the 2020 class. That said, I would not be surprised if he is bouncing between the G League and the NBA on that same timeline.
Honestly, I could copy paste a slightly altered version of Anfernee Simons’ draft profile here. The Blazers have clear needs at other positions, but that has not prevented Portland from showing interest in Hampton. According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, the Blazers are among the teams that have already interviewed Hampton during the pre-draft process.
Reservations aside, Hampton clearly fits the mold of a high-upside prospect. Since arriving in Portland, Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has shown he is willing to roll the dice on prospects, regardless of position, that fit a similar billing.
Have a draft-related question? Send your draft mailbag questions to Steve Dewald at BEdgeSteve@gmail dot com.