The Los Angeles Lakers finally made a long-awaited move to help LeBron James and Anthony Davis and tip off trade season in the NBA. The question now becomes whether or not this was the right move.
The Lakers acquired forward Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks on Monday. For a team that theoretically is looking to win games this year, it’s a fascinating trade that could either pay off with significant dividends if Hachimura, a 2019 top-10 pick who has shown flashes of intriguing scoring ability but hasn’t been consistent enough and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, was simply in the wrong environment. Or it could end up not solving any of the problems the Lakers roster currently has.
Let’s dive deep by first looking at Hachimura, what happened with the Wizards and his potential fit with the Lakers. Then we’ll look at the big picture for the team moving forward.
Who has Rui Hachimura been so far?
Hachimura, the first Japanese first-round pick in NBA history, has been viewed as a fascinating upside swing within basketball for almost a decade.
He didn’t pick up basketball seriously until he was about 12 years old. Four years later, he was the best prospect in Japan and leading the U17 FIBA World Cup in scoring as an underage player. When November 2015 rolled around, he had committed to Gonzaga after former assistant Tommy Lloyd visited him in his hometown of Sendai following an ill-fated game between Gonzaga and Pittsburgh on a military base in Okinawa.
Hachimura had his struggles at Gonzaga early on. But once he got comfortable, the tools that made him so tantalizing as a youth prospect in Japan were on full display. During his junior year, Hachimura was among the best players in the country, earning first-team All-American honors while averaging 19.7 points per game. He was college basketball’s most dominating mismatch nightmare that season: too fast for college bigs, too strong for college wings. At 6-foot-8, 230 pounds with enormous hands and a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Hachimura looked like an absolute force. He could put the ball on the deck and use his frame to get to the rim as a driver — especially using a terrific shot fake that seemed to always fool defenders. He’d improved as a midrange shot creator, rebounded well, lived at the foul line and was a freight train in transition.
But even at Gonzaga, there were still some cracks in the armor. Hachimura’s defense wasn’t always reliable. His communication could lapse, he wasn’t as disruptive as his frame would indicate he should be, and he didn’t always hit his rotations. His shooting from distance improved over time, but he wasn’t all that confident in it, taking only 36 3s in 37 games in his final season. And his decision-making as a passer and playmaker left a lot to be desired.