The Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards have struck a deal that will send fourth-year forward Rui Hachimura to Los Angeles in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks (2023, 2028 and 2029). the athlete. Hachimura is averaging 13.0 points and 4.3 rebounds on 33.7 percent 3-point shooting this season and had a season-high 30 points against the Magic on Saturday.
The Lakers have been locked in league-wide trade talks virtually all season. They spent the offseason finding a new home for embattled point guard Russell Westbrook, and when that failed, they went into the season with a roster strong on guards and weak on wings.
Their unbalanced roster only became more problematic as the season progressed. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missed significant time, and both have been instrumental in defending opposing forwards. Recently, standout role players Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV, who have also defended wings, have been sidelined through injury. This has forced the Lakers to use three-, four- and even five-guard lineups against Dallas at Christmas just to make sure their best players are on the ground.
They’ve looked to the trade market for wing aid, but it usually doesn’t come cheap, and they’ve been reluctant to trade their first-round picks for 2027 and 2029 to find upgrades. From this perspective, Hachimura represents the perfect compromise.
Hachimura, who is now in the final season of his rookie deal after being ranked 9th overall in 2019, missed much of last season due to personal reasons and had to deal with a bone contusion that forced him to miss games in this one to miss the season. Meanwhile, he’s struggling to find his place on a Wizards team filled with rotary-caliber players but lacking the kind of veterans who could help him develop into what Washington was hoping for when he was drafted. Things came to a head over the weekend when Hachimura said he wasn’t sure he wanted to be traded. “I just want to be somewhere that I want as a basketball player, and I want to be somewhere that people like my game,” he said told reporters.
Now he gets his wish. Hachimura is joining a Lakers team that desperately needs someone in his position and appears willing to invest in his development at least for the remainder of the season. As such, they deserve a solid grade for the move.
Los Angeles Lakers: A-
The Lakers are the smallest team in the NBA this season based on listed heights. A dozen players have played 400 minutes for them this season, eight of whom are guards. Austin Reaves, a 6-foot-5 collegiate point guard, has spent most of his minutes this season at small forward. Troy Brown Jr., a 6-foot-6 winger who started his career as a guard, has spent nearly half his minutes playing as a power forward. This was and remains an absurdly small team, even if Anthony Davis is healthy. They desperately needed a forward-thinking man, but forward-thinking people are one of the NBA’s rarer commodities. Last season they found Stanley Johnson in the junkyard and got a production that made sense. Being 6ft 8 tall and playing with energy is extremely valuable.
Hachimura is the low-risk, high-reward complement this season, and the upside potential is significantly higher. Johnson was a notoriously bad shot. Hachimura is more of a mixed bag. He’s only attempted 2.5 3-pointers per game in his career, and his percentages have been career-inconsistent. He’s made 33.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers in 2021 and is at it again this season, but last year he made 47 percent of them. The truth is somewhere in between, but Hachimura has never had a playmaker like LeBron James to create his looks, and he’s never had a big man like Anthony Davis to pull defense to the brink for him. He’s made 42 percent of his wide-open 3s this season but only gotten 50 of those attempts. He’ll get a lot as a Laker.
His defense has been inconsistent, but the metrics are trending in the right direction. FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR and Dunks & Threes’ EPM both rate him as mildly positive. It’s not difficult to understand why. An athletic 6-foot-8 frame with a 7-foot-2 wingspan is always going to cause problems, and the Wizards have often used him as the opposition’s top scorer in recent years. He’s not a stopper, but having only one player of the right physical proportions to guard those players is important because it ensures LeBron James doesn’t have to do this. The Lakers have so far solved this problem with the extremely undersized Patrick Beverley. It didn’t go well.
Hachimura’s development has been uneven in Washington. The Lakers have a strong track record with such players. They rehabilitated Malik Monk’s worth a season ago. They did the same with Lonnie Walker IV this season. The Lakers do well with young athletes who can shoot. That pretty much sums up Hachimura. The Lakers spent months trying to figure out a way to land such a player without factoring in their first-round picks for 2027 or 2029. They have now.
It’s also the only thing stopping them from getting an A. That’s a good trade. The Lakers need a great trade to get into the championship picture. Hachimura will step in as a rotation player. They’re at least one solid starter away from any real competition, and this player likely needs to come to Hachimura’s position. His former Washington teammate Kyle Kuzma has been mooted as a possibility. So does Bojan Bogdanovic. The Lakers just improved up front. They’re still thin. If this is the first of several trades the Lakers are making? Great, they have a chance to make some noise.
If they see this trade as their only move? Well, things are getting messier. Not only does this likely put them out of the championship fight this season, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the Lakers plan to re-sign Hachimura after the season. That’s fine in theory. In practice, the Lakers are a team designed to maximize playtime this offseason when they can make about $34 million chasing players from other teams. Hachimura’s $18.8 million cap hold will only make that more difficult. That’s an easier pill to swallow if he’s helping the Lakers to a deep playoff run, but it probably won’t happen without another deal. All of this raises just enough questions to bring the grade down to an “A-,” but all things considered, getting that kind of talent without giving up a first-round pick is almost a win for the Lakers.
Washington Wizards: D-
The sorcerers didn’t make things any worse with this bargain. That’s about as much credit as they deserve here. They did not accept a long-term salary. They didn’t give away picks. Overall, this is not harmful trading. It’s just disappointing.
Hachimura isn’t, say, Johnny Davis. He’s not a lottery loser who almost immediately proved he can’t play at the NBA level. Hachimura was actually pretty good as a magician for parts of four seasons. Averaging 13 points per game with reasonable overall efficiency and league-average 3-point shooting isn’t to be scoffed at. Most metrics place him as an average defender in a premium position this season. He has taken on the toughest opposing duties at various points in his career. He has great physical tools and pretty much lived up to expectations for a late lottery winner.
This may not be a player to build on, but it is a player to invest in. This is something the wizards haven’t done for quite some time. The last Wizards draft pick to deserve an overtime? That would be Otto Porter Jr., who was hit in the 2013 NBA Draft almost a decade ago. Let’s take a look at their first-round picks since then:
Once again, the Wizards have proven that they are either unwilling or unable to develop young players properly. That is becoming increasingly problematic for them as their two injury-prone stars, Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, are moving out of the stages of their careers where they can keep this side afloat unaided. If the Wizards can’t put an internal support system in place for them soon, any facade of competitiveness this team has sought to maintain will quickly fade, and when they do, the development of the young players who put them at the forefront of the lottery will do so , their task his only way to escape from the bottom of the table.
At the moment, it looks like the wizards aren’t ready for that. Whether or not Hachimura has lived up to Washington’s hopes is almost irrelevant. He’s a young player with talent. The wizards don’t have many of them. A handful of second-round picks isn’t an adequate substitute for one, and yet, given their history, it’s about all they can ever really expect their talented young players to do.