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Berman: Nets ‘extremely interested’ in R.J. Hampton at No. 19

NBL Rd 16 - New Zealand v Sydney Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

When R.J. Hampton, the 6’6” hyperathletic wing, last spoke with the media on September 29, he said he had not spoken with the Nets but wouldn’t be shocked to talk to Brooklyn in the future.

Now, with 16 days till the Draft, Marc Berman of the Post reports the Nets are “extremely interested” in the five-star Texas high school recruit who took his game to New Zealand last season. The Knicks, who’ve interviewed Hampton and liked him, think he’s not a candidate at No. 8 where New York picks.

According to a source, the Knicks believe picking Hampton at No. 8 is too much of a reach. But Brooklyn is extremely interested in Hampton if he falls to No. 19.

Hampton and the Nets have been linked before because of Nets GM Sean Marks’ heritage. Instead of going to college, Hampton played with the New Zealand Breakers. Marks, the former Spurs forward, hails from Auckland — the largest city in New Zealand.

Berman, who covers the Knicks, did not further categorize his source. There’s also no word if the Nets have interviewed him or worked him out.

That the Nets would be interested in Hampton shouldn’t be a surprise. No prospect has been linked to the Nets as much or for as long in external mock drafts as Hampton. His draft range, at least according to the mocks, is between 15 and 25 with most thinking he’s likely to wind up in the upper end of that range. ESPN even has him in the late lottery.

And on Monday, the Nets official site profiled Hampton, the first prospect in a series of those who “have been prominently projected for the Nets through multiple mock drafts.” The site was careful to note: “Analysis of individual players has been drawn and summarized from these external media outlets and does not reflect the views of the Brooklyn Nets.”

Hampton didn’t wow people with his numbers Down Under. Through 15 NBL games, Hampton averaged 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, shooting 40.7 percent from the field. Not great numbers, but scouts know his talent and long-term potential from high school.

Here’s ESPN’s summary of his offense...

Quick, explosive athlete with nice size for a combo guard. Has grown three inches over the past few years and is far from a finished product physically. Plays above the rim with ease in space. Explosive first step with the ability to shift gears on a dime. Uses Eurosteps well in the open floor.

Versatile offensive game. Can play on or off the ball in a pinch. At his best putting pressure on the rim with his speed in transition and the half court. Streaky, yet developing shooter who can make a spot 3 or a midrange pull-up with nice elevation. Holds quite a bit of playmaking potential. Sound feel for the game. At his best in drive-and-kick situations.

One comparison (long term) is Zach LaVine.

There are issues, as there are with any draftee. Hampton needs a better 3-point shot and ESPN notes he doesn’t have one overwhelming skill. He’s also had some injuries, to his hip and foot but that could have something to do with his still developing body.

Here he is talking with ESPN’s Mike Schmitz about his transition from high school to pro ball. The two look at video of his season in Auckland. Hampton’s maturity and intelligence at 19 are as impressive as his highlights.

He is highly confident, as Berman writes. In that September Zoom interview, Hampton said, “I went overseas, I learned a lot, I didn’t have superior numbers, and I was kind of forgotten about. The message that I was trying to get across is, ‘I’m still that same player. I’m still that player that can get you 20-25 points, 6-7 assists, be that lead guard and a franchise changer.’ ”