Report: Detroit Pistons signing RJ Hampton after his release from Magic

Detroit Bad Boys

Troy Weaver is collecting old NBA Draft crushes like, I dunno, Pokemon? Is that a dated reference? Anyway, the Detroit Pistons are signing young guard RJ Hampton after he received his release from the Orlando Magic, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Hampton was traded to the Magic nearly two years ago in the big Aaron Gordon deal. Hampton played nearly 2,000 minutes with the Magic in the past 1.5 seasons, but he struggled to develop offensively and got squeezed out of the rotation as the Magic decided to commit to Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony with a lift from veteran Gary Harris.

In 26 games this season with the Magic, Hampton was finally showing some times he’d figured some things out at the NBA level. He has a career-high 57.3% true shooting percentage, has a penchant for getting to the line a decent amount, was converting a career-high 52% of 2-point attempts, and is somewhat capable of hitting an open 3-pointer. But, yeah, he still has a long way to go.

Hampton is a lithe 6-foot-4 shooting guard in a point guard’s body, but he averages as many turnovers as he does assists.

If the name sounds familiar, Hampton was often linked to the Pistons in the NBA Draft process in the lead-up to the 2020 Draft. Now, just days after landing James Wiseman in a trade deadline deal, who Weaver reportedly had No. 1 on his board that year, he is adding another player he was high on in Hampton.

The Pistons had an open roster spot with the departures of Kevin Knox and Saddiq Bey in the deal that landed Wiseman. It’s unclear how much playing time Hampton can expect with the Pistons. He could be bench depth that doesn’t really see the light of day, but will be given a chance to show what he can do in the practice gym and a chance to catch on next year. Or, he could be thrust into a dedicated role and the team could make a concerted pivot toward giving the team’s youth even more minutes.

Recently, Cory Joseph has been spending more time in the rotation as a backup point guard, and I could see Hampton taking some of those minutes.

Hampton hasn’t played with the Magic since receiving 23 minutes on Jan. 4 where he scored 12 points in a win over the Thunder.

In the Orlando Sentinel’s story about Hampton’s release, they wrote something that sounded familiar to anyone who also followed the James Wiseman development story:

His improved 2-point accuracy (up from 40.5% last season), solid shooting in spot-up and catch-and-shoot situations and finishing around the rim demonstrates the game is slowing down for him and he’s better at weaponizing his speed.

He has the size and athleticism to be an impactful defender, but Hampton needs playing time to develop. That’s been hard to come by in a crowded backcourt filled with other young guards, including Fultz, Suggs and Anthony.

The Magic opted to release Hampton and give a guaranteed deal to Admiral Schofield, who had been playing on a two-way contract.

We’ve actually written about Hampton before because we drafted him in the 2020 SB Nation mock draft. Only some of the words found in that piece have come back to haunt me. Here is what I wrote about Hampton at the time.

A selection of Hampton would be a vote for the player development program in Detroit. If Weaver sees a player with kind of top-tier scoring instincts to be a lead guard in the NBA, but with inconsistent results and poor defensive awareness, and selects Hampton anyway, then he’s trusting that in year two, year three, we’ll see what Hampton can truly become.

Have the Pistons earned that type of trust? The new regime has done pretty well in developing its players, but the jury is very much still out. Sekou Doumbouya is the only player with elite potential, and he’s still younger than most of the players that are about to be drafted.

Hampton is a long-term play — a play a rebuilding team should be making. He’s not going to be a difference-maker in his rookie year, but it should never be about what happens during his rookie year. It’s about finding players who can lead your team deep into the playoffs four to five years from now.

Please breeze past the moment where I say Sekou Doumbouya and elite potential in the same sentence.

With this move, Weaver is taking a second-draft reclamation project but doing it before the first contract is up. Now Hampton has a brief window to audition for next season. Considering where the Pistons find themselves, I certainly hope he gets plenty of chance to show what he can do.

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