By finalizing a trade for Rui Hachimura, the Los Angeles Lakers are delivering a long-awaited upgrade on the wing – both for this season and potentially for the future.
After months of deliberation to find the right player and the right deal, the Lakers opportunistically hit Hachimura, the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NBA draft who had grown increasingly unhappy with his lack of a contract extension. and his reduced role this season with the Washington Wizards. , league sources have confirmed Athleticism. The Lakers have shipped Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks to Washington, the teams announced Monday.
The Lakers and Wizards discussed the deal for several days, with draft compensation the main point of bargaining, according to league sources. Athleticism reported last week that Washington was exploring potential trade destinations for Hachimura.
Hachimura, soon to be 25, has the height (6-foot-8, 230 pounds), length (7-foot-2 wingspan) and athleticism the Lakers desperately need in the frontcourt. His ability to play on either forward helps balance the positional structure of the roster. It’s unclear whether Hachimura will start on Day 1, but is expected to start alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis once the rotation is settled, multiple team sources said. Athleticism.
Acquiring Hachimura doesn’t prevent the Lakers from making another trade before Feb. 9. They enter the next two weeks armed with two first-round picks (2027 and 29) and three players (Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV and Russell Westbrook) that they could use as matching salaries when upgrading the listing.
With Davis set to return soon, the Lakers are further evaluating the roster and rotation and are still determining whether they want to make a minor or major upgrade with their tradable draft assets. At this point, their likeliest move would be to trade Beverley and a lottery-protected first-round pick for another wing or frontcourt upgrade. But the Lakers are willing to consider adding more assets to get a better player, depending on Davis’ recovery and the state of the market as the deadline approaches.
Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanović continues to be the name most often linked to the Lakers in league circles, but the Pistons are looking for an unprotected first-round pick, at a minimum, in a potential trade, according to league sources. The Lakers’ preference is to only give up a lottery-protected first for Bogdanović, 34, though that could change against the trade deadline clock.
No matter what happens next, the Hachimura trade is an undisputed win for Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office.
The Lakers eased their backcourt traffic jam, giving up their least productive guard for the minor cost of three second-round picks, one of which (2028) is a trade off of a pick they originally owned. They, in turn, got younger, bigger, longer, more athletic, and more talented to land Hachimura, whom they can keep for several seasons. They have shown they are ready to take more money – their luxury tax bill rose by almost $3 million after the deal – for a team that is currently 22-25 this season but who showed potential by going 10-9 with Davis with a right foot injury.
Internally, Los Angeles is high on Hachimura, believing he has untapped potential that he couldn’t show with the Wizards after choosing to prioritize Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija. The Lakers are interested in retaining Hachimura and currently expect to re-sign the restricted free agent this offseason, league sources said. Athleticism. According to those sources, Hachimura is expected to earn a double-digit annual salary, albeit well below his nearly $19 million cap.
In 30 games this season, Hachimura is averaging 13.0 points on 55.8% true shooting, along with 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game (he missed 16 games earlier in the season with a right ankle bruise). The Japanese native is shooting 33.7% on 3-point shots, below the league average, but he shot 44.7% from beyond the arc last season and 47.0% on 3 point shots. This indicates he could shoot better in LA with James, Davis and Westbrook creating higher percentage looks for him.
Hachimura does well in most defensive metrics, ranging from an above average defender (plus-0.3 in defensive RAPTOR) to a good defender (plus-0.9 in defensive EPM). The video shows a talented and physically gifted defender who can improve his effort, consistency and awareness. The Lakers are optimistic that playing under head coach Darvin Ham’s system and alongside veterans like Davis, James, Westbrook and Beverley will help bring out Hachimura’s unrealized defensive potential.
Durability is a bit of a concern, as Hachimura has never played more than 57 games in an NBA season – although that number is partially skewed by last season, when Hachimura, with the Wizards’ blessing, missed the first 39 games. of the season to take care of his mental health.
At a minimum, Hachimura’s arrival, coupled with Nunn’s exit, will reduce the number of three-guard lineups the Lakers use, which will help on the defensive glass and against teams with multiple wing scorers. The Lakers have had a sizeable advantage in most games this season.
After allowing the Memphis Grizzlies 39 second-chance points last Friday — the most a team has given up in more than 25 years — James pointed out they don’t have as many 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 players inches than the Grizzlies. It wasn’t the first time he expressed his displeasure with the lack of length and size of the roster this season.
“I think we’re playing with three or four right now,” James said.
The Lakers have found chemistry with their current starting lineup of Thomas Bryant, James, Troy Brown Jr., Beverley and Dennis Schröder, but with three big plays expected soon in Davis, Austin Reaves and Walker IV, that starting five was still going be temporary.
A Davis-James-Hachimura frontline gives the Lakers a versatile trio with good height, length and athleticism. They will be able to move from game to game, with Davis being by far the best defensive big man Hachimura has played with in his four-year career.
Hachimura will be the third or fourth offensive option on most rosters, though his career average of 16.9 points per 36 minutes ranks sixth on the list behind James, Davis, Westbrook, Schröder and Bryant.
The cost to the Lakers is Nunn, who has been playing much better recently but is the odd man out when the Lakers are at full strength. With Reaves and Walker IV soon to return, Nunn, 27, would have been the team’s sixth keeper at best, stuck behind Reaves, Schröder, Walker IV, Beverley and Westbrook. He’s struggled to make an impact and find a rhythm this season, connecting on just 32.5% of his 3s. Aside from Damian Jones, Nunn was the most consumable player on the Lakers’ 14-man roster.
Realistically, that was as good a trade as the Lakers were going to find in exchange for Nunn and several second-round picks. They have potentially found their start to the future, depending on how Hachimura fits in, the rest of their business activity, and how the free agent market plays out this summer.
The 12th-placed Lakers are just one game shy of the No. 10 seed and two games shy of the No. 6 seed. With James and Davis both playing as the top 10 players this season, they loom as the lowest-ranked potential opponent no one wants to face in a seven-game series — as long as they can make it happen.
This movement helps them get closer. While it’s not the type of blockbuster deal that could put the Lakers in contention, it’s a step in the right direction for the Lakers with minimal downside.
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(LeBron James and Hachimura Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)