If you had the Los Angeles Lakers bolstering their forward room
before the trade deadline — and sending off multiple future picks
to do it — you can pat yourself on the back.
Don't pat too hard, though, because I doubt you 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 2023 second via
Chicago (looking real top-40ish), the least favorable of LA or
Washington's 2028 second rounder and LA's 2029 second-rounder.
More of a starter trade than a star trade, but you have to crawl
before you walk.
The optics of this deal aren't great for Washington; it's not
fun trading away a somewhat recent top-10 pick for three
second-rounders and a bench guard you don't have long-term belief
in. That doesn't mean the move was thoughtless.
Replacing Hachimura's salary with Nunn's makes the Wizards' tax
figure a little easier to deal with this season — they're now $1.3
million below the tax line, per Keith Smith — which could
make them a candidate for more deals before the deadline. And if
there was no intention of retaining Hachimura in the offseason,
it's best to get something for him.
(And speaking of the offseason: It's clear the Wizards are
gearing up to retain Kyle Kuzma, the former Laker who's blossomed
into a multifaceted player.)
The Laker side is more fun to think about.
They've needed reinforcements for a while, especially in the
frontcourt. Prior to the deal, LeBron James was really the only
bulky, athletic forward on the roster. The slight-bodied nature of
the Lakers' wing/forward room has been an issue all season long.
Hachimura won't solve that by himself, but he serves as a step in
the right direction.
I'm curious to see how Hachimura slots in defensively. He's a
mixed bag on the non-glamour end, able to bang and slide with 4s,
and manage well enough against 3s. At worst, he should be able to
funnel twitchier wings inside to Anthony Davis once he makes his
To be clear, the Lakers do not (or at least should not) view
Hachimura as an on-ball stopper. If he can serve as an innings
eater of sorts, that will allow LeBron and Davis (when healthy) to
patrol the back line. The collective size and length of those three
— combined with the screen navigation they get up top from Dennis
Schroder — should be the foundation of a solid defensive unit.
Beyond his stature, Hachimura's skill set should be useful for
the Lakers. He's a load to deal with when getting downhill. That
really shines through in transition, where he's generated 1.19
points per possession (PPP) on transition opportunities over the
past two seasons per InStat tracking.
The Lakers rank sixth in the league in transition frequency per
Cleaning The Glass, and seventh in the league in pace. Their
willingness to push off misses and turnovers should vibe well with
Hachimura. That intention picks up when Russell Westbrook is on the
floor, an important note considering their time together in
In the half-court, expect Hachimura to make his money as a
complementary piece. He's shown the ability to punish sloppy
closeouts by mixing in strong drives with mid-range
His propensity for turnarounds lead to underwhelming results
against mismatches, but he's still someone teams shouldn't
feel comfortable stashing smaller players
The swing skill for Hachimura will be his three-ball. This is a
Laker team starved of reliable shooters — not just in terms of
efficiency, but players that defenses allocate extra attention to.
Hachimura hasn't accomplished the latter yet, and his efficiency
has continued to fluctuate.
He drilled 44.7% of his threes last season, and was even better
when filtering for 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 when considering his previous
reputation. It doesn't help that Hachimura is down to 33.3% on
catch-and-shoot looks this season, in line with the first two
seasons of his career (32.1%).
In order for this trade to pop offensively, Hachimura will have
to ramp up his aggression against smaller defenders — someone with
Hachimura's physical gifts drawing 38 shooting fouls over his last
70 games is hard to reckon with — or become a much more willing
(and efficient) shooter from deep. Ideally, the Lakers get both,
and I don't think either is out of the question.
Hachimura has shooting touch worth believing in. It's also not
like Hachimura has dealt with the cleanest path of half-court
development once you factor in roster changes, coaching changes and
the start-and-stop nature of his availability the past three
With the Lakers, he'll have space to explore. LeBron will always
draw two to the ball. There will be catch-and-shoot chances and
Zooming out, this is a reasonable gamble for the Lakers
considering the price point. If you can get someone with
Hachimura's skill set and traits while giving up one (1) asset of
moderate consequence (Chicago's second rounder), it's worth
Though Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers plan to retain
Hachimura for the long haul, they also didn't give up enough to
"force" them into that decision if he proves to be a poor fit.