If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.
Entering the 2020 NBA draft, I was going to be surprised if Denver made a selection in the first round. I was even more surprised when they traded a future pick to get another bite at this draft class. With their pick at 22, they grabbed center Zeke Nnaji out of Arizona. A couple of picks later, they made a swap with the New Orleans Pelicans to bring in guard RJ Hampton from the New Zealand Breakers.
On a roster that’s loaded with a lot of veteran talent, especially at those positions, it’s clear that these picks were made with an eye towards the future. With expensive extensions in place with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the team was going to have to make some cuts elsewhere, especially considering the likely extension for Jerami Grant coming during free agency.
For today’s Film Friday, we’re going to be diving in to see what Hampton can hope to add to this team over the next few years. To keep things light and positive, we’re focusing on what he does well. If he struggles at the NBA level, we can look at the negatives a bit later on that may be causing those truffles.
Speed & Athleticism
When you turn on the tape, the first thing that jumps out at you is Hampton’s burst. Some guys are quick with the ball, and others are quick without it. Hampton is fast period. Playing in New Zealand, it just looked like he was playing at a different speed than everyone else on the floor. On this play, as soon as he sees the turnover in favor of his team, he takes a few hard steps down the floor, and he has an easy bucket waiting for him when the pass is thrown his way.
On this play, the big just has no shot, and this is what I’m talking about with him playing at a different speed. He gets switched onto the center and blows right by him on the way to the rim. Is this an expectation for guards to be able to pull off? Somewhat, but that’s not how current guards Monte Morris and Murray win. This brings something new to the team off the bench.
With that athleticism, Hampton also excels at finishing around the rim because he’s able to elevate to give him better looks at the rim. At 6’5”, he’s got good size for a guard, and he puts it to good use when matching up with bigger defenders. On this play, he gets a step on the center, and, once he does, he heads to the rim. Despite falling away from the rim, he uses his burst and length to get his shot over the outstretched hand of the defender for the bucket.
Here, after blowing by the guard, it looks like he has a free path to the rim. The center gets back to force him to pull up, and, once he does, he goes to the floater. Denver’s offense generated that shot frequently last season, but they weren’t overly efficient at it. Hampton shows off great touch in the short areas, and his slashing would fit in well alongside Jokic.
Hampton is not a particularly elite shooter. He’s not going to rise up for seven or eight shots from 3-point range every night. That’s now what he’s comfortable doing. However, he does have the shooting form to show he’s not going to be a detriment from downtown. We see players come in every year with broken shots that are unlikely to ever be fixed. Hampton isn’t one of those guys, if he’s asked to knock down an off-ball 3-point shot. He demonstrates here that he can do that.
You would like to see him get his shot up quicker because it can take him a little bit to get the shot off, but he shows the ability to knock down those open looks. In the NBA, that’s all you need to do. You have to prove to the defense that you are a credible threat from 3-point range. If you do that, they have to stay tight to you outside which opens up the floor for your teammates. Hampton’s ability to find space and knock down shots will fit in well alongside Jokic.
For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.