School: New Zealand Breakers (NBL – Australia)
Roderick "RJ" Hampton Jr. was a five-star recruit coming out of the state of Texas. Instead of going to Kansas, Memphis or Texas Tech, Hampton opted to go directly to the professional ranks and play for the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL in Australia.
Hampton showed off a lot of the skills that made him such a highly touted recruit but played just 21.3 minutes a game and looked overmatched at times. That’s in stark contrast to potential No. 1 pick LaMelo Ball, who played over 30 minutes a night and was given the keys to a bad team in the same league.
A hip injury cut Hampton’s time with the Breakers short as he returned to the States in early February to prepare for the draft. He averaged 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 17 games.
In the open floor, Hampton is a handful. He’s fast and explosive. His length and body control allow him to finish at an elite level. He’s a gifted scorer that has a knack for finding the basket and does flash the ability to create off the dribble.
While he still has work to do as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll, he flashes serious promise as a driver and facilitator in that capacity. Playing most of the season at the age of 18 likely wasn’t easy, but there were nights where Hampton stood out in a grown man’s league.
He possesses good length at the one. That allowed him to play passing lanes and record over a steal a game. Between his wingspan and athleticism, he might have the traits to become a strong defender.
Hampton dealt with a lot of the issues that you’d expect from a high school player going straight to a pro league. He was outsmarted and outmuscled fairly often — especially on the defensive end, where he struggled the most. He’ll definitely need to add muscle to withstand NBA punishment.
While he displays touch, his shot has a long way to go. He hit just 29.4 percent of his threes. He shot 73 percent from the line, which is slightly encouraging, but needs to be much higher for a perimeter player. Everything from his footwork to his release need serious tweaking.
How much different might things have been if Hampton had played college basketball? Would he have been able to wow more teams if we had a traditional pre-draft process? There’s no way of knowing. Because of that, Hampton appears to be falling down boards.
If he does wind up slipping to No. 22, is Hampton worth a shot for the Sixers? Last year, GM Elton Brand targeted Matisse Thybulle because he was 22 and played four college seasons. That player like won’t be available at pick 22 this year. Does Brand take a chance on developing a guy like Hampton who is still so young and raw?
Hampton does possibly fill a hole as a shot creator and could be an excellent running mate in the open floor with Ben Simmons. The shot is a concern, but Hampton just turned 19 in February. You could let him play in the G League and jack up a bunch of shots.
With guys like Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton and possibly Zhaire Smith and Marial Shayok as young perimeter options, the Sixers can afford to take a flyer on a guy like Hampton. It may be worth investing on his potential at pick 22.
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