What R.J. Hampton brings to the Denver Nuggets

Denver Nuggets point guard R.J. Hampton was a top prospect coming out of high school but his stock dropped after a short stint in the NBL.

This begs the question: what does R.J. Hampton bring to the Denver Nuggets?

Hampton, 19-years-old, was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the 24th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and subsequently traded to the Nuggets. Projected to be a lottery pick even after an underwhelming 2019-20 season with the New Zealand Breakers, Denver can now count themselves among those hoping that the Little Elm native breaks out in a big way.

During his time with the Breakers, Hampton averaged 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 20.6 minutes per game, shooting 40.7% from the field and 29.5% from 3-point range. Per 36 minutes, those numbers translate to 15.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game.

However, while his counting stats left something to be desired, his one-and-done season with the Breakers was also cut short due to a hip injury he suffered after only 15 games. This led to Hampton returning stateside to recover and prepare for the draft.

Current Strengths

With the signing of decorated point guard Facundo Campazzo, Hampton may not be first in line for a spot in the rotation but he can still help the Nuggets if he finds his way onto the court.

Firstly, Hampton is one of the fastest players in the draft and has great athletic abilities. In fact, his  speed and athleticism are often described as his most outstanding traits, providing the Nuggets with a great player to run the fast break.

Per Lachlan Everrett of Hoops Habit:

If you ask “what is R.J. Hampton’s best trait?” — the answer is his athleticism and speed. The potential for a one-man fast break with the general ability to go into a full spirit and still do the “basketball stuff” catch, pass, and score while breaking the sound barrier is outstanding. His overall ability to control himself while he’s sprinting is comparable to Russell Westbrook or John Wall.

Hampton also has the potential of being a great two-way guard, showcasing great playmaking and ball-handling skills in his short time with the Breakers.

That said, Hampton is definitely a player that may take some time to develop in the NBA.

Expected Improvements

The main weakness Hampton had during his time in the NBL was his subpar perimeter shooting.

Not only did he shoot below 30% from three but he only shot 67.9% from the free-throw line. However, while this could be concerning for Denver, Hampton has been working on his shot with former NBA sniper Mike Miller, who believes the young prospect is progressing well.

Per SNY TV’s Ian Begley:

With him and the way he plays, if he shoots — which I’m pretty confident in — in the next two-three years he’ll be a high 30s, low 40s percent 3-point shooter, he’ll be one of the best guards in the league.

With Miller sharpening Hampton’s shooting ability, the young gun is surely to progress into a solid shooter even if he never becomes a spectacular deep threat.

Paired with the newly drafted Nuggets’ athleticism and playmaking attributes, Hampton will help Denver pick up the pace and play an exciting brand of basketball. He might only be the perfect fit for the Nuggets but the steal of the draft as well.