And the Thunder Select: R.J. Hamptonnatashapanchal.com

And the Thunder Select: R.J. Hampton

With a bounty of draft picks from the 2019 Tradepocalypse summer, the Thunder will be scouting young prospects at the top of recruiting and draft classes once again. Daily Thunder will keep you informed on whether those players look like good targets for Oklahoma City.

Projected draft class2020
Projected draft age19
Measurements6’5″, 185 lbs.
Current TeamNew Zealand Breakers
HometownDallas, Texas

A couple notes off the top — a lot of my analysis here is based on tape from Hampton’s two preseason games at the NBL Blitz earlier this fall and his preseason games in Memphis and Oklahoma City. It’s tough to find reliable high school tape on Hampton — and many other prospects — that shows him doing more than dominating weaker competition with easy steals and transition dunks that won’t translate as frequently to the next level. If you’re interested in that, here you go.

However, I will re-visit Hampton’s game throughout his season. 

At a glance

My first impressions of Hampton’s game were mostly positive. He’s a crafty guard who, through two preseason NBL games, appears to know how to use his length to finish over taller defenders despite not having super-elite athleticism.

Thunder fans will probably look at Hampton’s frame — 6-foot-5, 175 pounds — and see a slightly-shorter Terrance Ferguson. Both are relatively skinny, but Hampton has proven to be much more skilled on the ball to this point. He’s already showing the ability to dribble into traffic in the halfcourt and make good reads. If you watch Ferguson’s NBL highlights from three years ago, most of his scoring happened on catch-and-shoot jumpers or in transition, but Hampton’s game is already more nuanced than that. 

Upside

After seeing Hampton’s performance in Oklahoma City Thursday night, one main thing stood out: he’s a much better passer than I had given him credit for. He has great floor vision and can make the flashy pass from time-to-time. Hampton’s passes (team-high five assists) versus the Thunder were often the most exciting part of the Breakers’ offense. He didn’t have to use those skills much in high school, but there’s tape of him at higher levels looking like a quality distributor. His passing, as well as his feel for the game off a ball screen, leads me to classify him as a true lead guard rather than a combo guard.

Defensively, the potential is there. Hampton is listed at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, but there’s room for him to add to that frame. If he does stick as a true point guard, he has excellent size, length and athleticism to defend his position well. He will need to add strength and improve his defensive instincts, but there’s plenty of potential for him to be an above average defender in addition to whatever he becomes on offense. 

Downside

This is nitpicking as it’s a sample size of one game, but Hampton’s motor wasn’t always in full gear vs OKC. There are times offensively when he was theoretically providing spacing on the perimeter, but he wasn’t ready for the ball if a pass was to come his way. On defense, he seemed to lose focus a couple times away from the play. It’s not a reason to downgrade him at this juncture, but it’s something to monitor moving forward. 

Thunder Fit: Could he play alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?

As long as it looks like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the focal point of this rebuild — which could change as soon as the 2020 NBA Draft — it makes sense to view prospects through the lens of how they would mesh with SGA on the court. 

Hampton and Gilgeious-Alexander are both theoretically point guards, but I actually do think they could work well together. Defensively, their length would be a big problem at the point of attack. Having two 6-foot-5 guards with versatility is a great foundation for an elite defense, especially since SGA has already proven to be a quality NBA defender entering just his second season. 

Offensively, their skillsets don’t overlap too much. SGA likes to slither into the paint and use his length to finish over bigs. He’s great at making the simple pass, but his court vision is still developing. But Hampton has enough touch and athleticism to probe the defense and either bury a floater or find a cutter for an easy basket.

Making the pick

As of right now, I’m pretty high on Hampton’s potential — even in a class that’s loaded with elite point guard talent. He has the touch, balance, shooting ability, passing and basketball IQ to be a lead guard in today’s NBA, plus elite size for the position. If he develops some more in New Zealand, I think he ends up as a top-10 pick in next summer’s draft. 

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