New Denver Nuggets Guards R.J. Hampton And Facundo Campazzo May Assist Bench Unit Push The Tempo – Forbes
R.J. Hampton will likely be the fastest player on the Denver Nuggets.
If there’s one distinct characteristic that encapsulates Denver Nuggets basketball over the past few decades, it’s speed.
From Doug Moe’s freewheeling teams in the 1980s to George Karl’s run-and-gun squads in the early 2000s, some of the most successful and durable incarnations of the Nuggets have been in large part defined by a blistering pace of play which exploits Denver’s mile-high altitude to run opponents out of the arena with high-octane offenses, frequently racking up some of the league’s best home win records in the process.
Denver in fact was in the top 10 in pace in 25 of the last 40 seasons, including 12 consecutive seasons from 2003, the year Carmelo Anthony was drafted, through 2015, the year the Nuggets hired Michael Malone and a year after they selected Nikola Jokic.
The days of the Nuggets consistently running one of the fastest-paced teams in the NBA mostly came to a close with the arrival of the Jokic and Malone era, as Jokic-run offenses operate very deliberately in the half court, and Malone’s emphasis on defense tends to slow down the pace as well.
Playing at a slower pace is not an inherently worse or better thing. What matters at any pace is efficiency, and per NBA.com Denver finished last season with the fifth-best offense with a rating of 112.6, despite being 29th in pace at 97.64.
A slower pace is conducive to optimizing both Jokic-centric schemes and his two-man game with Jamal Murray, and attempting to artificially speed up their game just for pace’s sake wouldn’t accomplish much.
But Denver playing slower does come with at least a marginal opportunity cost in the form of not taking advantage of the city’s high elevation. It’s a card the Nuggets always have available in their deck, and as effective as Jokic offenses are on their own terms, it still seems regrettable to leave it unplayed.
When Jokic rests and the reserves take the court, however, the Nuggets will find their best chance to pick up the pace and throw a different, faster look at opponents to both keep them off balance and perhaps tire them out a bit.
And two of Denver’s new roster additions – first-round draft pick (via trade) R.J. Hampton and Argentinian by way of Real Madrid Facundo Campazzo – just so happen to be fast, skilled guards who love to get out and run, and can capably handle, create and finish in transition.
R.J. Hampton was the Nuggets’ big upside selection, as they traded a future first-round draft pick to the New Orleans Pelicans, who picked him 24th overall in the first round.
At six-foot-six, Hampton is a good rebounder at his position, averaging 3.9 per game (6.8 per 36 minutes) in his 15 games with the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s NBL, according to Basketball-Reference.
Hampton puts his skill on the boards to good use in transition, creating a lot of easy scoring opportunities on ‘grab-and-go’s as he uses his speed to keep defenders on their heels. He also has good hands and disrupts passing lanes to nab steals and get out on the fast break.
When Hampton takes it down the court he’s more likely than not to finish the job himself, but he reads the court well and is a willing passer who especially looks to create transition three-point looks.
Hampton is unlikely to see rotation minutes from the start of the season, but he will be the fastest Nuggets player with the most pop to his athleticism, and potentially the best on the team at attacking and finishing at the rim. Armed with these skills to set him apart as a player of unique value, Hampton should at least get his chances to prove himself.
After years of rejecting teams’ attempts to woo him to the NBA, Facundo Camp, Facundo Campazzo finally took the plunge, agreeing to a two-year deal with Denver.
With a distinguished 12-year professional career in Argentina and Europe, Campazzo’s astoundingly creative and skilled passing earned him the moniker “The Magician.” True to his reputation as a playmaker, and somewhat inverse to Hampton, who might first look to the rim when he gets out on the break, Campazzo more often than not is seeking to create easy looks for his teammates in transition.
He’s not afraid to take it the length of the court when it’s opportune as well, and has a knack for using his speed to get just enough separation from his defenders to finish around the rim despite his smaller stature. (His height at five-foot-eleven is what has raised the most questions about his viability in the NBA.)
Campazzo has tremendous court vision and is deft (again, despite his height) at threading high entry passes to the basket, hitting open three-point shooters in rhythm and, as his nickname suggests, making some magically creative passes both in transition and in the half court.
And like Hampton, Campazzo gets steals at a good clip (1.5 per game in his pro career, per Basketball-Reference), and flips them into easy fast break buckets.
The Nuggets would not have brought Campazzo to Denver under his circumstances if they did not fully intend to play him. So unlike Hampton, expect to see regular rotation minutes for Campazzo from the opening tip-off.
Both of these guards bring a speed to the Nuggets which it hasn’t had in some time, and especially if they play together (perhaps with Michael Porter Jr. in on the fun), Malone can put a faster-paced look on the court that would represent a significant changeup when he sends in the reserve unit.
That revved-up offense could potentially provide a more consistent spark off the bench than Denver at times has been able to muster, and a clearer identity for them to hang their hat on.
And as a bonus, the fans would absolutely love it. As grateful as most of them are for the increasingly successful team the Nuggets have been building in recent years, the undercurrent of nostalgia that yearns for a Denver team that runs the floor and runs their opponents ragged – that looks like Nuggets basketball – is strong.
And besides, with the Nuggets organization playing up the “Mile High” theme bigtime on a number of fronts, it’s only fitting that they play at least a little “Mile High Basketball” in the truest sense of the phrase.