In finalizing a trade for Rui Hachimura, the Los Angeles Lakers are making a long-awaited upgrade on the wing – both for this season and the potential future.
After months of deliberations to find the right player and deal, the Lakers made an opportunistic strike on Hachimura, the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, given the lack of a contract extension and his deal with the Washington Wizards this season. had become increasingly unhappy with the reduction in the role. League sources confirmed athletic, The Lakers sent Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks to Washington, the teams announced Monday.
According to league sources, the Lakers and Wizards discussed the deal for several days, with draft compensation being the primary bargaining point. athletic reported last week that Washington was exploring potential trade sites for Hachimura.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old Hachimura has the size (6-foot-8, 230 pounds), length (7-foot-2 wingspan) and athleticism that the Lakers desperately need in the frontcourt. His ability to play either position helps balance the positional composition of the roster. Multiple sources on the team said it is unclear whether Hachimura will start on Day 1, but he is expected to start next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. athletic,
Hachimura’s acquisition doesn’t prevent the Lakers from making another trade before February 9th. They enter the next two-plus weeks with two first-round picks (2027 and ’29) and three players (Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV and Russell Westbrook). ) they can use as equal salary while upgrading the roster.
With Davis set to return soon, the Lakers are further evaluating the roster and rotation and are still determining whether they want to make minor or major upgrades with their tradable draft assets. At this point, their most likely move would be trading Beverley and a lottery-safe first-round pick for a second wing or frontcourt upgrade. But the Lakers are willing to consider adding more assets to get a better player closer to the deadline based on Davis’ recovery and the market situation.
Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanovic is the name most often linked to the Lakers, according to league sources, but the Pistons are looking for an unsecured first-round pick, at least in a possible trade. The Lakers’ preference is to simply give up the first lottery-protected 34-year-old Bogdanovic, though that could change when the trade-deadline clock ticks down.
No matter what happens next, the Hachimura trade is an undeniable victory for Lakers vice president and general manager of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office.
The Lakers eased their backcourt jam, dumping their least productive guard for the modest cost of three second-round picks, one of which (2028) is a swap on a pick they originally owned. In turn, they got smaller, bigger, taller, more athletic, and more talented in taking down Hachimura, who they can retain for multiple seasons. They’ve shown they’re willing to take 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 went 10-9 with Davis. Showed your potential. a right leg injury.
Internally, Los Angeles is high on Hachimura, believing he has untapped potential that he wasn’t able to show with the Wizards after electing to prioritize Kyle Kuzma and Denny Avdija. League sources said the Lakers are interested in retaining Hachimura and are hoping to re-sign the currently restricted free agent. athletic, According to those sources, Hachimura is expected to earn a double-digit annual salary, though far less than his roughly $19 million cap hold.
In 30 games this season, Hachimura averaged 13.0 points on 55.8 percent true shooting, along with 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game (he missed the first 16 games in the season with a bone bruise in his right ankle). The Japanese native is shooting 33.7 percent on 3-point shots, a figure below league-average, but he shot 44.7 percent from beyond the arc last season and 47.0 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s. This indicates he can shoot better in Los Angeles with James, Davis and Westbrook creating high-percentage looks for him.
Hachimura performs well in most defensive metrics, ranging from an above-average defender (plus-0.3 in defensive RAPTOR) to a decent defender (plus-0.9 in defensive EPM). The video shows a talented and physically gifted defender who could improve on his effort, consistency and awareness. The Lakers are optimistic that playing in head coach Darwin Hamm’s system and playing alongside veterans like Davis, James, Westbrook and Beverley will help bring out Hachimura’s unrealized defensive ability.
Durability is a concern, as Hachimura has never played more than 57 games in an NBA season – although that number is a fraction of the previous season, when Hachimura, with the Wizards’ blessing, missed the first 39 games of the season. Had gone. Turn to her mental health.
At the very least, Hachimura’s arrival, along with Nunn’s exit, will decrease the number of three-guard lineups used by the Lakers, which will help against teams with defensive glass and multiple wing scorers. The Lakers have had the advantage of size in most games this season.
After giving up 39 second-chance points to the Memphis Grizzlies last Friday — the most a team had given up in more than 25 years — James pointed out that they didn’t have as many 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 players As many grizzlies. It wasn’t the first time he expressed displeasure over the lack of roster length and size this season.
“I think we’re playing like 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 Schroder, but with three key pieces expected soon in Davis, Austin Reeves and Walker IV, this starting five Always going on be tentative.
The Davis-James-Hachimura frontline provides the Lakers with a versatile trio with good size, length and athleticism. They will be able to switch in most matchups with Davis, who along with Hachimura is the best defensive big man he has had so far in his four-year career.
Hachimura will slot into most lineups as the third or fourth offensive option, though his career average of 16.9 points per 36 minutes ranks sixth on the roster behind James, Davis, Westbrook, Schroder and Bryant.
The cost for 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 Reeves and Walker IV soon to return, the 27-year-old Nunn will be the team’s sixth guard at best behind Reeves, Schroder, Walker IV, Beverly and Westbrook. He’s struggled to make an impact and find a rhythm this season, connecting on only 32.5 percent of his 3s. Aside from Damian Jones, Nunn was the most expensive player on the Lakers’ 14-man roster.
Realistically, this was about as good a trade as the Lakers were going to find in exchange for Nunn and several second-round picks. He potentially started the future depending on how Hachimura fits in, the rest of their trade activity and how the free-agent market plays out this summer.
The 12th-ranked Lakers are just one game behind the No. 10 seed and two games behind the No. 6 seed. With James and Davis both playing like top-10 players this season, they’ve emerged as potential low-seeded opponents no one wants to face in a seven-game series — as long as they can get there.
This move helps bring them closer. While this isn’t the type of blockbuster deal that could propel the Lakers into contention, it is a step in the right direction with minimal downside for the Lakers.
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(Photo of LeBron James and Hachimura: Patrick Smith / Getty Images)