I asked a simple question of Detroit Pistons fans on Twitter the other day:
Choose, then explain:— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) October 20, 2020
As I expected, most chose Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton is ranked higher on most publicly available draft boards, and more people in America have actually seen him play a live game of basketball (Pistons fans, in particular, probably saw his 25/9/5 performance against the Michigan Wolverines in the Battle 4 Atlantis). But I thought the explanations we got for the choices were interesting.
People chose Haliburton because he was the safer option:
Absolutely loved Hampton coming out of HS, but I chose Halliburton as a ‘safer’ pick I think can still be the play making PG we need.— Jahshua Smith ❤️ (@JahshuaSmith) October 20, 2020
All in on Hayes if he’s there at 7.
Haliburton is the better passer and defender BY FAR. Easy choice— NBA small market fanalyst (@smallmarketNBA) October 20, 2020
People chose Hampton because he was the higher-upside option:
Hampton has the quick 1st step you just cant teach. You can teach shooting. Haliburton’s jumper is hideous and he doesn’t get to the rim.— Dre (@MittenMadeDre) October 20, 2020
Higher upside with Hampton. If shooting comes around to a respectable 35%, could be a more athletic CJ McCollum as a secondary ball handler/creator— Derrick Sant (@De_32cent) October 20, 2020
Tyrese Haliburton and R.J. Hampton represent the two poles of NBA Draft player evaluation — production and potential.
Haliburton’s production can’t be ignored. He averaged 15/6/6 on 50/42/82 shooting during his sophomore year at Iowa State He did everything, and did it efficiently, for his team despite sporting a decidedly average 20% Usage Rate. He was magnificent for Team USA in the U19 World Cup helping the United States bring home a gold medal with a perfect 7-0 record.
On the other hand...
R.J. Hampton’s potential can’t be ignored. As mentioned above, you can’t teach his speed in the open court. He’s already a solid finisher with both hands, and able to quickly explode off one or two feet. His shot was a major weakness during his time in Australia, but he’s worked during this long pre-draft process to restructure it into something that can work in the NBA.
On a third hand...
In a lot of ways, Hampton and Haliburton are pretty similar. Both guys are around 6-foot-5, 185 (Haliburton has gotten up to 185 in predraft, and Hampton was listed at that last season). Both guys are known as extremely hard workers and fit under Troy Weaver’s listed criteria of being good people and not just good players. Hampton’s parents pushed him hard in high school, and Haliburton followed his high school coach’s instruction to “find the hardest worker and follow him.” Both guys had impressive, in-depth basketball interviews with ESPN’s Mike Schmitz.
We know that Weaver likes both guys. It’s been mentioned many, many times by beat writers who cover the Detroit Pistons that the team is interested in Haliburton’s high-character personality. Conversely, beat writers — and, notably, the team’s writers and social media — have also mentioned R.J. Hampton as a possibility even when he wasn’t considered a lottery pick by Draft Twitter.
With two guys who are similar in many ways but play starkly different brands of basketball, it will be interesting to see if Troy Weaver’s Pistons are after potential, or after production. That move will tell us a lot about how the Pistons could look under Troy’s tenure.