The Orlando Magic finally moved on from their perpetually game one winning core of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier at this season’s trade deadline. In their returns from the deadline, the two young assets they received were Wendell Carter Jr. and R.J. Hampton.
The Magic currently also have Markelle Fultz (out for the season), Jonathan Issac (out for the season), Chuma Okeke, Cole Anthony (returning soon), and Mohamed Bamba part of their young core.
Fortunately for Hampton, with the injuries to Fultz and Anthony, Steve Clifford has no choice but to start Hampton and to see what he has to offer.
The Orlando Magic might as well be called the Lakeland Magic for the rest of the season after gutting their entire roster. And with so few options on offense Hampton will get plenty of opportunities – which is a polar opposite to his limited role with the Nuggets.
Why R.J. Hampton could shine with the Orlando Magic
Hampton’s key skill is his athleticism, both vertically and in the full-court. We saw this on display in the NBL with the New Zealand Breakers and that has most certainly translated.
Hampton is a talented playmaker (which was hard to see with the Breakers head coach Dan Shamir’s European-styled offense) and finisher and that has been on display in his limited run with the Nuggets and his handful of games with the Magic.
In his first NBA career start, Hampton showed a lot of what he did in New Zealand, Hampton had a career-high 16 points, four rebounds and three assists and shot 2-of-3 from deep.
Most of his points were within 10 feet of the basket, flying from end to end and manipulating his body versus vertical defenders to finish around the rim is what we expected to see (but still impressive) coming into the draft.
The more substantial aspects were the accurate jump shots and playmaking.
There isn’t much to say when it comes to Hampton’s shooting, he’s only attempted 24 shots from the 3-point line – generally, you need a significantly larger sample to get an understanding of a player’s accuracy. Despite that his pull-up 3-pointers and catch and shoot attempts have looked like replicable shots in an increased role.
The bigger standout was Hampton being able to play make with the ball in his hands, he uses his speed while driving to open up gaps for the roller. Hampton’s combination of athleticism, finishing and passing allows him to be a creative and dangerous half-court creator.
In New Zealand, Hampton was mostly relegated to an off-the-ball role, which didn’t suit his playstyle of running and gunning. This second half of his rookie season, with this depleted Magic roster, will be the best opportunity to showcase his skills since his high school career.
In the predraft process, he was compared to (a healthy) Dante Exum and Jordan Clarkson. In my predraft research, Jonathan Givony also suggested to me that Spencer Dinwiddie would be an apt comparison.
His size (6’4”), length (6’7” wingspan) and athleticism obviously allow for an extremely high ceiling for a two-way point guard in today’s NBA. Defense and shooting are the two biggest concerns with Hampton’s overall game but both can be improved significantly under the right coaching.
For the rest of the season Hampton will have free rein to run pick and rolls with Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba so expect Hampton’s numbers and usage (currently at 16 percent) to skyrocket.
The Magic and Hampton will have a large sample of what he can do as a lead guard for the rest of his rookie season, and it might be one of the only reasons to watch the Orlando Magic for the rest of the season.