The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...
2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: RJ Hampton
Team: New Zealand Breakers
2019/20 stats: 15 G, 20.6 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.3 bpg, 40.7 FG% (3.3/8.2), 29.5 3PT% (0.9/2.9), 67.9 FT%
Player comparison: Dante Exum, O.J. Mayo
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 13th, Sports Illustrated 14th, Ringer 13th, NBADraft.net 17th, Bleacher Report 8th
5 things to know:
*A Texas native, Hampton bypassed the college path to the NBA by signing a professional contract with the New Zealand Breakers from the NBL in Australia - the same league as LaMelo Ball. Before deciding to turn pro, he had offers to play at Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Memphis and was considered a top-5 recruit in the 2019 recruiting class. Many considered Hampton as a trailblazer for top prospects to skip college and become a professional overseas.
*Hampton's tenure in the NBL was a mixed bag. While he was able to establish himself as a contributor to a professional team, he never was the best player on the floor. Ball outshined him in their head-to-head games and as an overall star. A far from glowing performance in a league that is far below the standards of the Euroleague and other international competitions.
*While he has the abilities of a combo guard, he's a more natural fit at the two position. His quick catch and shoot motion looks smooth and he is always rotating through offensive sets. His accuracy will prevent him from being a top-10 pick, especially his misses off of open looks. Rarely does Hampton look to set his teammates up but knows his role and plays within his abilities.
*A hip injury derailed Hampton's season halfway through the year. He had a brief return to the NBL but a month later he decided to leave the team and prepare for the NBA draft. Hip injuries are tough to fully return from with few success stories.
*Hampton's name was included in several Christian Dawkins' emails, an agent tied with a pay-to-play scheme unearthed by the FBI in 2018. It is alleged that Dawkins wanted to pay Hampton $4,000-$5,000 a month while Hampton was in high school and also throughout his presumed first year of college.
Fit with Wizards: Hampton is one of the several point/ combo guards whose talent level has them scattered around the first round. Hampton is not among the top tier of guards in this year's class but does offer a mind-round option for a team to take a chance on a playmaker that already has shooting fundamentals.
Of course, the Wizards are not in need of a two-guard whose role would just be limited to Bradley Beal's backup. Hampton does not have the positional flexibility to fill into other roles and is too small to space the court with John Wall and Beal at the same time.
Likely he is a depth piece, which is not what Washington needs with their first-round pick. Even from a preparedness level, Hampton might need a year or two to fully develop into his frame and to improve his shooting numbers.
Given his inaccuracies, his hip injury and limited NBL success, drafting Hampton does not appear to be a smart move for the Wizards with the uncertainty on how he will project out.
That is not to say Hampton cannot be a successful pro. The Nuggets took a similar chance on Michael Porter Jr., who was coming off a back injury when he was drafted in 2018, and is now a formidable bench piece of their team. Both Porter and Hampton saw marginal success and tough injuries in the year before the draft. They also are highly regarded high school prospects that are well known among the scouting community.
Hampton may not be a quick answer for the upcoming season. However, the Wizards could see him becoming a key bench piece in the future.
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