Analyzing R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball in a Head-to-Head Matchup

October 27th, 2019

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch one of the biggest anticipated matches of the month, as R.J. Hampton and the New Zealand Breakers took on LaMelo Ball and the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL on October 23rd,, as I was able to see this with thanks to Facebook via NBL. It was a game between the two highly ranked prospects to see how well they would play against each other. The contest ended in a lopsided affair as New Zealand ran away with the victory, but I came away fairly impressed with Hampton’s performance, even though neither he nor Ball shot the ball especially well. Here are my thoughts on how they fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball went head to head in an October 23rd game in the NBL. (Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball went head to head in an October 23rd game in the NBL. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

New Zealand’s 6-5 guard, R.J. Hampton played fairly well in his team’s double-digit win over Illawarra. Though he struggled to knock down jumpers, he excelled at attacking the basket to get points, he generally passed and handled the ball well, and he showed off solid all-around skills to help get his team the victory.

R.J. Hampton did a good job of scoring on aggressive drives to the basket. He would run the floor hard to get open on the break, and he would excel at scoring in transition. He was able to score as a trailer in traffic once, and he also used a Euro-step move to his left after initially driving right to score off the glass another time. Plus, he also assessed his options by scanning the defense while dribbling up the floor, and he then cautiously drove hard to the basket to score and get the extra free throw on a separate offensive possession, and Hampton generally showed a knack for scoring on quick drives to the hoop.

However, he struggled to knock down jump shots on offense. He was unable to make any of his three-pointers, but he did run the floor hard to get an open spot-up three on the break once due to possessing very good foot-speed and motor to be able to get himself open that time. Hampton also ran off of a screen and dribbled to his left, but he ended missing on a pull-up, long two-point shot.

In this game, Hampton displayed decent playmaking skills. He has good court vision and he has the patience to probe the defense to find ways to get open shots for his teammates. He is a good passer on the break, and he can often kick balls out of drives to find open shooters to set up scores for them. Plus, he also can throw an accurate long pass to find a teammate ahead on the break, and he also managed to set a good on-ball screen after throwing a pass back to a shooter early in this game. On the other hand, Hampton also committed his fair share of turnovers. Sometimes, he would be prone to over-dribbling, which can lead him to get the ball poked away when facing heavy ball pressure or to stepping out of bounds when crowded. He also threw a lob pass after pushing the ball up the court, but it was broken up by Glover and later intercepted on that play.

Hampton did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He would chase down balls to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he would tend to push the pace up the floor afterwards off of defensive rebounds. Late in the fourth quarter, he did a good job of bringing the ball up the floor when handling heavy ball pressure from his opponent.

He also played fairly good defense. Hampton is an active help defender that can get steals and blocks for his team, and he is a rangy defender that can make things difficult for his opponents. On one play, he managed to fight through a screen when defending a cut, and then he leapt up to block LaMelo Ball’s shot to a teammate. Another time, an opponent ran a ball into Hampton’s arms, and Hampton managed to swat the runner to a teammate due to possessing good length, instincts, and timing. Hampton also was able to jump on a loose ball to get a steal, and he also can sneak up to back-tap a ball from an opponent to force a turnover.  

However, he may give up too much space when guarding out on the perimeter, and there were a couple of times where he didn’t even contest the outside shot, which led his opponent to scoring on three-pointers. On a separate play, he backpedaled too much when defending a drive, which rendered him unable to contest the shot to allow the score. Hampton also doesn’t always fight hard through screens, which can put his team out of position when defending against screens.

In general, R.J. Hampton had a fairly solid showing in his team’s blowout win over Illawarra. He’s a speedy, athletic combo guard that can comfortably run the point, and he is a gritty, hard-nosed player that will get after it on defense. He’s a talented scorer off the dribble, and he has good court vision that allows him to rack up assists. He will need to improve his jump shot, but Hampton is a very good prospect that could end up being a top 5 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, as he could end up being a solid player in the NBA.

LaMelo Ball put forth an uneven performance in his team's loss to New Zealand. (Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images.)
LaMelo Ball had some good moments, but struggled to make shots consistently in his team’s loss to New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung of Getty Images.)

Illawarra’s 6-7 point guard, LaMelo Ball had an up and down game in his team’s tough loss to New Zealand. He showed off some outside shooting skills as well as the ability to score on off-ball motion plays, and there were times where Ball showed off solid all-around skills in this game. But all too often, he would take questionable shots by hoisting up quick threes from way out early in the shot clock that would miss, which would hurt his team’s ability to get into the flow of their offense.

In this game, Ball showed off an adequate ability to knock down jumpers to help space the floor for his team. He was at his best when taking and making uncontested three-point shots. He was able to run right off of a screen off the ball before making a deep uncontested three off of a dribble handoff.   Also, Ball managed to utilize a step back move before making a pull-up three from well beyond the arc. But he also tended to miss pull-up threes, especially late in the game, and there would be times where he would bring the ball up the court before promptly shooting a three-point shot from way out without his teammates touching the basketball that would result in a miss. Ball did show that he can make tough three-point shots, but his shot selection was spotty at best, and it was frustrating to see him continue to miss far too often for a player that is considered to be a potential top pick in the 2020 draft.

Ball also managed to run in and leapt up to score on a thunderous tip dunk off of an offensive rebound late in the game to show off his solid motor and surprisingly good athletic abilities. He also appeared to score on a cut to the basket, but it was waved off as his teammate had drawn a reach-in foul on an opponent earlier. Plus, Ball did an adequate job of scoring on drives to the basket, as he can draw plenty of fouls to get to the free throw line, including once when he was able to do so off of an acrobatic reverse layup in traffic.

However, Ball doesn’t always take shots under control, as he would sometimes try to tip shots from close range that would result in misses, and he also would not always go up strong when looking to score off of cuts. He tended to miss too many shots from close range, as his misses on wild, uncontrolled tip shots hurt his shooting percentages in this contest.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills. Ball showed that he can kick balls out to shooters to set up scores for them, and he can find teammates on the move to get them scoring chances around the basket. He has good court vision that allows him to rack up assists, and he also has a knack for throwing sharp interior passes to find his teammates in stride. However, he can also tend to be too careless with the basketball, which can lead him to commit turnovers. Ball sometimes would lose the ball out of bounds after dribbling right off of a screen, as he can tend to over-dribble. Other times, he may throw inaccurate long passes that can tend to get intercepted. He also threw an inaccurate pass that was deflected that resulted in an over and back violation for his team midway through the third quarter.

Ball has a keen nose for the basketball, as he did a great job of grabbing rebounds for his team. He would often run in to get tough boards on both ends of the floor, and he would bring the ball up the floor off of defensive rebounds. But there were a few occasions where he would run in to try to get the rebound, but in those cases he was unable to corral the basketball, which would cause him to lose it out of bounds.

He also played adequate defense in this game. Ball possesses good agility, anticipation skills, and instincts that allow him to get plenty of steals and deflections on the defensive end. He managed to run in to intercept a pass quickly to get one steal, and he also poked a ball away from an opposing big man to collect another. He will also play passing lanes to get deflections, and he also managed to contest a deep three to force a miss midway in the third quarter. Sometimes though he can be late in picking up a man in transition defense, as he can get beat off the dribble, which can lead him to commit reach-in fouls and allow scores on the break.

In summary, LaMelo Ball had an uneven performance in his team’s loss to New Zealand. He is a talented player that showed off some interesting skills in various moments of this game, but then he would hoist up some bad shots and be too careless with the basketball that would result in costly turnovers. Since his tremendous performance in the NBL Blitz, Ball has not fared nearly as well recently, as he has struggled to make shots consistently in the NBL’s regular season play, and his team gotten off to a sluggish start so far. Ball will need to regain the shooting ability he put on display that day during the NBL Blitz, but for the time being, he will need to improve both his shot selection and focus on both ends of the floor. Still, he is a talented player that could be a likely lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and Ball could end up being a good player in that league if things break his way.

Other Notes:

Illawarra’s 6-11, 2000-born center Samson Froling had some good moments in his team’s loss to New Zealand. He is a skilled big man that can score and rebound the basketball. Last year, he played his freshman season for Creighton, and this year, he has been contributing consistently for his team off the bench so far in the NBL.

Froling showed a very good ability to score on hustle plays. He consistently drew free throws on off-ball motion plays, as he did so off of a cut, as well as after running the floor to catch a long pass on the break another time. Froling also possesses an adequate ability to score off the dribble, as he has a decent first step that allowed him to drive right to score off the glass.

He also managed to score on a jump hook over a much smaller defender when posting up. He also received a pass when open around the basket, which allowed him to score on a powerful two-handed dunk. Sometimes though, his footwork can be suspect in the post, as it appeared as if he got away with a walk on multiple occasions, and he can struggle to score in traffic at times.

He also showed some stretch big potential as Froling appeared to make a deep, bank three-pointer off the glass, but unfortunately, that did not count as his teammate had been called for setting a moving screen late in the fourth quarter.

Plus, he also displayed fairly average playmaking skills. Froling is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he also threw a pinpoint bounce pass to a cutter in traffic to set up a scoring chance for his teammate. Also, Froling will set lots of on-ball screens, and he also managed to help get his teammate an open look to set up a three-point score for him. However, he did seem to get away with some rather questionable footwork when looking to score out of the post, and there were times where it seemed as if he was traveling when making his moves to the hoop. He did commit one turnover, as on that play, he drove in before throwing an entry pass that was deflected and intercepted by the other team.

In addition, Froling did a good job of rebounding the basketball. He would frequently get his hands on balls to get defensive rebounds, and he also managed to tip a ball to a teammate to help his team get an additional defensive board.

However, he will need to improve his defense. For the positives, Froling will play passing lanes to try to deflect passes in order to help force turnovers, and he also will run back on defense. He also managed to contest a three-point shot when guarding a smaller opponent, as he was able to use his length to force a miss.

However, he can tend to struggle to guard quicker players when defending opponents off the dribble, which can lead him or his teammates to have to commit fouls afterwards. He also can be late on his rotations, which can leave him prone to allowing open shots and easy passes to get through. Also, Froling didn’t seem to have great shot blocking instincts as he was unable to swat shots despite roaming in the paint, as he lack of elite physical tools can make it tough for him to be a shut-down interior presence on the defensive end.

Overall, Samson Froling had a fairly good game, as he is a skilled big man that can score the basketball in a variety of ways. He is a big man that can shoot, score off the dribble, post up, and score off of hustle plays, and he will also get after it on the glass to help his team grab rebounds. His average physical tools and limitations on the defensive end may limit his potential as a prospect for the NBA, but his ability to score and rebound could enable him to be a second round prospect either in 2020 or in a future draft sometime down the road.

Illawarra’s 6-4 guard, Angus Glover had a very good showing in his team’s loss to New Zealand. He is a high-motor player that competes relentlessly, and it paid off as he was able to make some solid plays on both ends of the floor.

Glover would sprint down court to get open in transition, and he was able to score on a surprisingly athletic, two-handed dunk on the break late in the game, as he really accelerated to score on the jam. He also attempted a deep three off the catch, but he missed on his lone three-point attempt from beyond the arc.

Glover also did a good job of moving the basketball, as he would swing the ball to open shooters to set up scoring chances, and he also pushed the pace off of a defensive rebound to find a shooter late in the game. He showed good patience in finding teammates and solid accuracy with his passes, and he also will move quickly when he is off the ball.

He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He would leap up to get defensive rebounds, and he would go in amidst crowds to do so.

Also, Glover played good defense in this game. He did a great job of breaking up high interior passes, as he was able to get a steal and a deflection on two different occasions. He also would rotate to contest threes and drives, as he would use his length and timing to force misses. He also would get back on defense to prevent opponents from getting easy shots in transition. But sometimes, he would struggle to guard quicker opponents off the dribble, as on one play, he ended up fouling his man that time.

Overall, Angus Glover played very well in limited minutes when he was on the floor. He is a high-motor combo guard that excelled at making plays in this game, and he also showed off above average athletic gifts. Right now, he may be a long shot to be drafted as he lacks elite physical tools and does not receive consistent playing time in the current league he is playing in, but Glover will likely have a long career in professional basketball, and he could end up being a solid role player in the NBL.

Illawarra’s 6-8 forward, Daniel Grida also played in this game, but he didn’t have a noticeable impact when he was on the court. He did play very hard and energetically, as he would use his length and footwork to contest shots to force misses, and he would run hard back on defense.  However, he would tend to be caught ball watching, as he would be late to rotate back to his man, which would cause him to allow opponents to score on jumpers.

Grida also was unable to score from anywhere on the court, and he even missed both of his free throws, as he was held scoreless by Illawarra. He would miss wildly around the basket, and he had trouble knocking down jumpers. On the plus side, he would swing the ball to shooters to keep the ball moving, and he would chase down balls to get a couple of rebounds for his team.

In this game, Daniel Grida did not play very well against New Zealand, and he was pretty much a non-factor when he was on the court. He has struggled to make shots consistently so far this year, and like Glover, Grida probably will go undrafted by an NBA team in 2020, and he may be a long shot to make his way to that league. Still, Grida’s size, motor, and 3 and D potential could allow him to have a long career in the NBL.