Exploring Rui Hachimura’s fit with the Los Angeles Lakers

If the Los Angeles Lakers bolstered their front space before the trade deadline, and sent out multiple future picks to do so, you can give yourself a pat on the back.

Don’t pat it too hard though, because I doubt you’ve ever had this deal on the bingo card.

On Monday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers were acquiring former lottery pick Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks: a second in 2023 via Chicago (looking like a true top pick). 40), the least favorable of LA. or the 2028 Washington second round and the 2029 LA second round.

It’s more of a starter operation than a star operation, but you have to crawl before you walk.

The optics of this agreement are not very good for Washington; It’s no fun trading a fairly recent top-10 pick for three second-rounders and a bench point guard you don’t trust long-term. That doesn’t mean the move was thoughtless.

Replacing Hachimura’s salary with Nunn’s makes the Wizards’ tax figure a little easier to handle this season — they’re now $1.3 million below the tax line, according to Keith Smith, which could make them candidates for more deals before the deadline. And if there was no intention to retain Hachimura in the offseason, it’s best to get something for him.

(And speaking of the offseason: It’s clear the Wizards are preparing to retain Kyle Kuzma, the former Laker turned all-rounder.)

It’s more fun to think about the Lakers side.

They have needed reinforcements for a long time, especially in the front area. Before the deal, LeBron James was really the only big, athletic forward on the roster. The thin nature of the Lakers’ wing/forward space has been a problem all season. Hachimura won’t solve that on its own, but it does serve as a step in the right direction.

I’m curious to see how Hachimura fits in defensively. He is a mixed bag on the non-glam end, able to hit and slide with 4s, and handle himself quite well against 3s. At worst, he should be able to channel more edgy wings to Anthony Davis once he returns.

To be clear, the Lakers don’t (or at least shouldn’t) see Hachimura as a stopper on the ball. If he can serve as something of a ticket eater, that will allow LeBron and Davis (when healthy) to patrol the back line. The collective size and length of those three, combined with the on-screen navigation they get from Dennis Schroder, should form the foundation of a solid defensive unit.

Regardless of his stature, Hachimura’s skill set should be useful for the Lakers. It’s a burden to deal with when it’s going downhill. That really shines in transition, where he generated 1.19 points per possession (PPP) in transition opportunities over the past two seasons according to InStat tracking.

The Lakers rank sixth in the league in transition frequency according to Cleaning The Glass, and seventh in the league in pace. His willingness to avoid mistakes and turnovers should resonate well with Hachimura. That intent is picked up when Russell Westbrook is on the court, an important note considering their time together in Washington.

At half court, expect Hachimura to make his money as a complementary piece. He has shown the ability to punish sloppy closeouts by mixing strong drives with midrange pull-ups.

His propensity to change course leads to disappointing results against mismatches, but he’s still someone teams shouldn’t feel. comfortable hide smaller players against.

Hachimura’s swing ability will be his triple ball. This is a Lakers team hungry for reliable shooters, not only in terms of efficiency, but also players defenses pay extra attention to. Hachimura has yet to achieve the latter and his efficiency has continued to fluctuate.

He drilled 44.7% of his 3-pointers last season, and he was even better when he filtered the catch-and-shoot looks (47.0%). The volume just wasn’t high enough for it to matter (2.7 catch-and-shoot attempts on 2.9 overall per game), especially considering his previous reputation. It doesn’t help that Hachimura is down to 33.3% in catch-and-shoot appearances this season, in line with the first two seasons of his career (32.1%).

For this trade to excel offensively, Hachimura will either need to increase his aggression against smaller defenders (it’s hard to count on someone with Hachimura’s physical gifts taking 38 shooting fouls in his last 70 games) or become a much bigger player. willing (and efficient). ) shooter from deep. Ideally, the Lakers get both, and I don’t think either is out of the question.

Hachimura has a shooting touch that is worth believing in. It’s not like Hachimura has dealt with the cleaner path of midfield development, either, once you factor in roster changes, coaching changes and the intermittent nature of his availability over the past three seasons.

With the Lakers, he’ll have room to explore. LeBron will always get two on the ball. He will have catch and shoot chances and catch and drive pockets.

Walking away, this is a reasonable bet for the Lakers considering the price. If you can get someone with Hachimura’s skill set and traits while giving up one (1) moderate consequence asset (Chicago’s second round), it’s worth exploring.

Although Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers plan to keep Hachimura long-term, they also haven’t given up enough to “force” them to make that decision if he proves to be a poor fit.