RJ Hampton is still convinced he’s the most skilled player in the Nov. 18 NBA draft, and that any teams that let him slip out of the lottery are sleeping on his skills.
But if he does fall to the Nets — who pick 19th — he said he’d be a perfect fit playing alongside and learning from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“The thing I like about that fit is I can play off those guys,” Hampton said Wednesday via Zoom. “Those guys are superstars in this league, Kevin Durant and Kyrie. You have Caris LeVert, an up-and-coming star, with a Hall of Fame coach, Steve Nash.
“So those guys would give me the wisdom every single day, just coming in ready to work. That’s a very good team, a great organization to play for, so I think that fit would be good.”
The Nets appear to agree, sending a contingent to Memphis to work him out two weeks ago. GM Sean Marks made the trip personally to watch the 19-year-old.
Granted, with Marks being from Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, there was already added familiarity with Hampton. The 6-foot-5 wing opted to forego college and spent last season playing with the New Zealand Breakers.
Hampton averaged a modest 8.8 points and 3.9 boards, but said being in another country playing against grown men has accelerated his learning curve.
A five-star recruit out of Little Elm (Texas) High School, Hampton had been ranked in the top five in the 2019 recruiting class by both ESPN and 247. He nearly attended Memphis before opting for the international route.
“I’d definitely do it again. I grew as a player more than I would’ve grown in college, and my immediate impact will be a lot faster than some other guys. … If you’re willing to lose some of the hype but get more of the work, it’s definitely a route,” said Hampton, confident he’s a lottery talent.
“I’d think so. Coming out of high school, top-five player in my class, I feel like I went to a situation where I didn’t get to score a lot of points, and do the oohs and aahs that some other players got, but I learned a lot from my time over there, and I definitely think that’s going to further me immediately in the NBA.”
Hampton would be a very on-brand pick for the Nets, an expected high lottery pick coming out of school based on skills and athleticism, now viewed in the 15-25 range. Still, scouts are impressed with the work ethic and improved jumper he’s shown in recent months with trainer Tyler Relph.
Despite having not played since Jan. 12, Hampton has been training with Memphis coach Penny Hardaway and Mike Miller, a career 40.7 percent 3-point shooter. Hardaway has tutored him in point-guard play, while Miller has refined his stroke.
“Mike, just shooting, being in rhythm, being a great shooter, that’s something I wanted to focus on when I came back. And Penny, learning how to be a pure point guard, how to make the right reads,” Hampton said. “Those two things have been very big for me the last six, seven months.”
The Nets hired assistant Royal Ivey, who had been under contract with the Knicks. They now have 10 coaches, two more than under former coach Kenny Atkinson.
Ivey not only grew up a Nets fan, but is close with Durant. They played together in Oklahoma City from 2010-12, and again in 2013-14, with Durant once calling him his “best teammate” in the NBA.
Durant has reportedly been impressive in his return from Achilles surgery, with former All-Star Isaiah Thomas tweeting, “Haha crazy thing is he’s even BETTER now!!! Just hooped with him the other week OMG.”
Author : Brian Lewis