The Los Angeles Lakers made yet another trade with the Washington Wizards on Monday, acquiring Rui Hachimura for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks. That's the third deal between the two franchises in the Rob Pelinka era, dating back to the Anthony Davis trade in 2019 and the Russell Westbrook blockbuster of 2021.
What did they get right and wrong in the Hachimura/Nunn swap? What does it mean for the future of the franchise? Are the Lakers a contender? Will they make another move, or is this it for the season?
The Immediate Term
The Lakers hope to get Davis back from a foot injury within the next week. If he can successfully return to form and stay healthy, the door opens for more player movement before the February 9 trade deadline.
Any setback likely means foot surgery and the end of his season. So the Lakers would naturally take a different approach without their All-Star forward/center, given a greatly diminished upside. Hachimura was an intermediate move that could help this year but with an eye on what's to come beyond 2022-23.
Hachimura will likely slot in at forward alongside LeBron James. Who is technically the 3 or 4 will be determined by matchup, and that's with Davis healthy at center.
The Lakers have negotiated with the New York Knicks for over a year on forward Cam Reddish, and while that door isn't entirely closed, it's unlikely. Instead, Hachimura is L.A.'s next "second draft" prospect, like Malik Monk last season and Lonnie Walker IV and Troy Brown Jr. this campaign.
The hope is that Hachimura had an untapped upside in Washington, lost among a crowded set of wings with Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija and Cory Kispert. Hachimura's game is somewhat similar to Kawhi Leonard's as a midrange scorer, but he hasn't reached those heights yet.
The raw material is there, and the franchise hopes the coaches and the environment with James, Davis and Westbrook (Hachimura's former teammate) will help bring out the best in the 6'8", 24-year-old forward.
By the Deadline
If all goes well for the Lakers over the next two weeks, the front office can make whatever final decisions need to be made ahead of the deadline.
That includes Davis resuming a tremendous individual season that was halted by a foot injury in December. The Lakers also need help from the 11 teams ahead of them in the standings. Even after a poor start to the year, L.A. is only 2.5 games behind the fifth-place Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers have the means to take another half-measure or even go all in with draft considerations, which include two future first-round picks (2027 and 2029) and four seconds. That could mean a minor deal including Patrick Beverley, Walker and, as needed, players on minimum deals. Or the Lakers could go huge with Westbrook's expiring $47.1 million contract.