Magic ‘excited’ to land R.J. Hampton from Nuggets in Aaron Gordon deal

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Cody Taylor
·4 min read
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When trade conversations first began with the Orlando Magic regarding Aaron Gordon, the Denver Nuggets were reluctant to give up rookie R.J. Hampton in a potential deal. Over time, the Nuggets eventually conceded and the Magic are sure glad they did.

On Thursday, the Magic agreed to trade Gordon to the Nuggets ahead of the trade deadline for a package that included Hampton, veteran Gary Harris and a first-round pick. The transaction was eventually approved by the NBA on Friday just after midnight on the East Coast.

“Denver was one of the teams that were interested in Aaron and they were very reluctant to discuss R.J.,” Magic president Jeff Weltman said on Friday. “It wasn’t until a couple of days before the deadline that his name started to be included in discussions and that was a pivot point for us. The conversations with Denver definitely shifted when his name was included and this is not a guy that they happily moved into this deal.”

With the Magic out of the playoff picture, the organization opted to clean the slate and cash in on their players. Along with Gordon, All-Star Nikola Vucevic and guard Evan Fournier were traded as the Magic build toward the future. In addition to Hampton, the Magic added three first-round picks, two second-round picks and three veteran players.

The ability to acquire Hampton was a major priority for Orlando.

Orlando showed a great deal of interest in Hampton in the days leading up to the NBA draft. The Magic, led by Weltman and general manager John Hammond, were among a few teams that watched him work out in-person in Texas during the pre-draft process. They left that trip highly impressed with him, something that drove them to make the trade.

Hampton, a former five-star high school prospect, was viewed by many during the pre-draft process as a player with a high ceiling given his ability and physical measurements. While he ultimately went 24th to the Nuggets, the Magic viewed him as a prospect that could eventually outperform his draft position.

“R.J. is a big rangy, athletic kid,” Weltman said. “He is a multi-position player and is going to be a high-level defender. I think R.J. is a little under the radar because of his path but you’re talking about a top-five high school player when he was coming out who goes to New Zealand so he is kind of off the radar for the typical NBA fan.

“He was a 19-year-old playing with grown men. Those leagues are hard. You don’t just walk into those places and dominate. They are physical, those guys are rough and tumble and the games are called that way. R.J. had flashes of brilliance in some rough times (due to an injury). He is a really charismatic, smart, high-energy kid.”

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The move to the Magic will likely create an opportunity to log heavy minutes for Hampton. He played sparingly this season on a crowded Nuggets roster, averaging just 9.3 minutes in 25 games, but will now find himself as a key player on a rebuilding Magic team.

Hampton, along with the three others acquired on Thursday, arrived in Orlando and will undergo physicals but will not play on Friday versus the Portland Trail Blazers. Their roles are still to be determined but head coach Steve Clifford is excited to get to work with them.

“I spent some time yesterday, I watched some film,” Clifford said. “They always say, ‘You never know a player until you coach them.’ I’ll wait until I have time to meet with them and talk to them before I really make any opinions on what they can bring and where they are at.”

This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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