2022 Orlando Magic Time To Step Up: R.J. Hampton’s decisionmaking

R.J. Hamtpon has the potential to be a great passer and playmaker. But his decisionmaking often leaves a lot to be desired. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
R.J. Hamtpon has the potential to be a great passer and playmaker. But his decisionmaking often leaves a lot to be desired. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

When it was announced that R.J. Hampton would get some run in with the Orlando Magic’s Summer League team, Magic fans were excited at the prospect.

Hampton was still a potentially strong player with a ton of talent who was still seeking consistent playing time and the right role to find his place. The Magic had the opportunity to give to Hampton for sure. They even carved out a really good role for him as a spot-up shooter and energy player off the bench.

Summer League would be a chance to cement his growth further and see just where he improved.

Instead, Hampton struggled through Summer League. He still looked like he was out of control, playing too fast and unable to handle the ball as the team’s point guard. Worse still, he did not look like a two-year NBA pro in a setting where most players are just trying to scratch the door on the NBA.

Hampton has as many questions about him entering this season as any other player. And his opportunities could be few.

Injuries have opened the door and it feels like R.J. Hampton will play meaningful minutes while Gary Harris recovers from his torn meniscus. This is another golden opportunity for Hampton to establish his role.

R.J. Hampton is still a player full of potential and a player who could reach his high ceiling. But the Orlando Magic need to trust his decisionmaking for him to carve out a role.

And it all starts with that same thing that concerned everyone entering Summer League — his control and his pace.

If there is any place Hampton has to improve this year it is in his ability to control the tempo of his own game and make good decisions when he attacks the paint. It was not that he was excessive in his turnovers last year, but it is the Magic not trusting Hampton as a point guard and working hard to turn him into their three-and-D guard.

That is probably his role but in this world of versatility, having another ball handler the team can trust is a pretty big deal.

Hampton’s point guard numbers are not something pretty to look at.

According to Basketball-Reference, Hampton played 20 percent of his minutes at point guard. That was more than his short stint with the magic last year. And considering the Magic had Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and (eventually) Markelle Fultz to man the point it does not seem like it is an insignificant number.

Maybe there is a labeling issue with those numbers where the play-by-play data named Hampton the point guard over Suggs, etc. It sure did not feel like the Magic wanted Hampton handling the ball or making decisions as an attacker.

Overall, Hampton finished the year averaging 2.5 assists per game against 1.4 turnovers per game. Again, neither number would seemingly be a cause for alarm.

Orlando found its most success with him when he was taking 3-pointers. He made 35.0-percent from beyond the arc, one of the biggest jumps on the team and one of the most promising shooting statistics the team has. He made 39.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.

There is a lot of promise in there.

But his decision-making off the dribble still leaves a lot to be desired.

Hampton is one of the fastest players on the team, but he struggled a ton in transition. This is the biggest sign of his struggles with the team. According to NBA.com’s tracking statistics, Hampton scored only 1.00 points per possession in transition, putting him in the 26th percentile.

Essentially, Hampton in transition is a coin flip that the Magic will score when that should be almost a sure thing the team gets two points. On top of that, Hampton turned the ball over on 12.8-percent of his transition opportunities.

According to Basketball Index, Hampton was a solid driver — averaging 11.5 drives per 75 possessions and a rim shot creation measurement that put him in the 85th percentile. But he as was a terrible passer out of these drives —  7.9-percent drive assist rate (52nd percentile) and 17.3-percent drive assist to pass out rate (34th percentile).

Essentially, Hampton’s drives were all forays to the rim with very little chance of him kicking out to a shooter or gaining an assist out of them.

What is crazy is that Hampton could be a legitimately good passer.

According to Basketball-Index, Hampton had 21.42 potential assists per 100 possessions (89th percentile) and 4.01 high-value assists per 75 possessions (assists leading to a layup/dunk, 3-pointer or foul shot), putting him in the 80th percentile.

Hampton does not make a ton of mistakes in terms of turnovers. But he makes a ton of mistakes in terms of his decision-making to get to the basket and deciding whether to shoot or pass.

This is part of the larger point that Orlando likely wants to see from Hampton and what he struggled to do during Summer League.

The Magic want to see him play under more control and composure as he attacks the basket. Too often still, Hampton is going at the basket with some reckless abandon.

Orlando does not want Hampton to lose his speed or his ability to pressure defenses with his forays to the rim. That part is all good and promising as an addition to his 3-point shooting.

But what the team needs is to see Hampton become smarter with how he attacks. The numbers show he has the potential to make a major impact. But he just is not there.

And Summer League did not create a rosy outlook.

Hampton has a role for this team. The Magic love his defensive potential — there too he needs more discipline but his ability is obvious. They also love his growth as a 3-point shooter. That will help him find the floor and fill in for Harris during the injury.

Next. Franz Wagner, Germany have made great strides. dark

But Hampton’s future depends on his decisionmaking and learning to control his speed better. That still appears to be a continuing process.