In closing a trade for Rui Hachimura, the Los Angeles Lakers are making a long-awaited wing upgrade — both for this season and potentially in the future.
After months of deliberating about finding the right player and deal, the Lakers opportunistically struck out at 2019 NBA draft pick Hachimura, who had become increasingly unhappy with his lack of a contract extension and smaller role this season with the Washington Wizards. confirmed league sources on this the athlete. The Lakers sent Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks to Washington, the teams announced Monday.
The Lakers and Wizards discussed the deal for several days, with the draft compensation being the main point of contention, according to league sources. the athlete reported last week that Washington is exploring potential trade targets for Hachimura.
Soon to be 25, Hachimura has the height (6’8, 230 pounds), length (7’2 wingspan) and athleticism the Lakers desperately need going forward. His ability to play both forward pitches helps balance the squad’s positional structure. It’s unclear if Hachimura will start on Day 1, but he is expected to start alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis once the rotation has settled, multiple team sources said the athlete.
Hachimura’s acquisition won’t stop the Lakers from completing another trade before Feb. 9. They go into the next two weeks armed with two first-round picks (2027 and ’29) and three players (Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV and Russell Westbrook). ) which they could use as matching salaries when updating the roster.
With Davis returning soon, the Lakers continue to evaluate the roster and rotation and are still deciding whether to make a minor or major upgrade with their tradeable draft assets. At this point, their most likely move would be to trade Beverley and a lottery-protected first-round pick for another wing or front-court upgrade. But the Lakers are poised to consider adding more assets to get a better player, depending on Davis’ recovery and the state of the market as the deadline nears.
Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanović remains the name most associated with the Lakers in league circles, but the Pistons are looking at least for an unprotected first-round pick in a potential trade, according to league sources. The Lakers prefer to only give up a lottery-protected first for 34-year-old Bogdanović, although that could change as the clock approaches the market deadline.
No matter what happens next, the Hachimura trade is an undisputed victory for Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office.
The Lakers softened their backcourt jam and fired their least productive guard for the small cost of three second-round picks, one of which (2028) is a swap for a pick they originally owned. In turn, they got younger, taller, taller, more athletic, and more talented in landing Hachimura, who they can keep for multiple seasons. They’ve shown they’re willing to take on more money – their luxury tax bill rose by nearly $3 million after the deal – for a team that’s currently 22-25 this season but have shown their potential by doing it went out 10-9 against Davis with a right foot injury.
Internally, Los Angeles are high on Hachimura and believe he has untapped potential that he failed to show with the Wizards after they decided to prioritize Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija. The Lakers are interested in keeping Hachimura and currently expect to re-sign the restricted free agent this offseason, league sources said the athlete. According to these sources, Hachimura is expected to make a double-digit annual salary, but much lower than his nearly $19 million cap.
In 30 games this season, Hachimura averaged 13.0 points with a 55.8 percent shooting accuracy, along with 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game (he missed 16 games earlier in the season with a bruised right ankle bone). The Japanese native shoots 33.7 percent on 3-point shots, a number below the league average, but he shot 44.7 percent from beyond the arc and 47.0 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season. This suggests he could shoot better in Los Angeles with James, Davis and Westbrook creating higher percentage looks for him.
Hachimura performs well on most defensive stats, ranging from being an above average defender (up -0.3 in defensive RAPTOR) to being a good defender (up -0.9 in defensive EPM). The video features 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 unlock Hachimura’s untapped defensive potential.
Durability is a bit of a concern given that Hachimura has never played more than 57 games in an NBA season — though that number is partially skewed from last season, when Hachimura missed the season’s first 39 games with the blessing of the Wizards to take care of themselves his sanity.
At the very least, Hachimura’s arrival coupled with Nunn’s departure will reduce the number of Lakers’ three-guard lineups, which will help on defensive glass and against teams with multiple wingers. The Lakers have had a size advantage in most games this season.
After awarding the Memphis Grizzlies 39 second chance points last Friday — the most a team had given up in over 25 years — James pointed out that they don’t have that many 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 players had like the grizzlies. It wasn’t the first time he expressed displeasure at the squad’s lack of length and size 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 Schroeder, but with three significant players expected back soon in Davis, Austin Reaves and Walker IV, that starting XI has always been good be temporary.
A Davis-James-Hachimura front gives the Lakers a versatile trio with good size, length and athleticism. They’ll be able to switch most matchups, with Davis being easily the best defensive big man Hachimura has played with in his four-year career.
Hachimura is used as a third or fourth offensive option in most lineups, though his career average of 16.9 points per 36 minutes sits in sixth place behind James, Davis, Westbrook, Schroeder and Bryant.
The price for the Lakers is Nunn, who’s been playing a lot better lately, but the underdog is when the Lakers are at full strength. With Reaves and Walker IV returning soon, 27-year-old Nunn would have been, at best, the team’s sixth guard, behind Reaves, Schröder, Walker IV, Beverley and Westbrook. He’s struggled to impress and find a rhythm this season, only getting 32.5 percent of his 3s. Aside from Damian Jones, Nunn was the most expendable player in the Lakers’ 14-man roster.
Realistically, this was as good a trade as the Lakers would find in exchange for Nunn and several second-round picks. They may have found their start in the future depending on how Hachimura fits in, the rest of their trading activity and how the free agent market performs this summer.
The 12th-ranked Lakers are just one game away from the No. 10 and two games from the No. 6. With James and Davis both playing like the top 10 players this season, they’re emerging as potential lower-ranked opponents that nobody wants to face in a seven-game streak — as long as they can get there.
This movement helps them get closer. While it’s not the kind 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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(Photo by LeBron James and Hachimura: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)