In completing a trade for Rui Hachimura, the Los Angeles Lakers are making a long-awaited upgrade – both for this season and possibly into the future.
After months of speculation about finding the right player and contract, the Lakers landed Hachimura, the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft who had been increasingly frustrated by the lack of a contract extension. his and reduced career this season with the Washington Wizards. , league sources confirmed to The Athletics. 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 and draft compensation was the main talking point, according to league sources. The Athletics reported last week that Washington was exploring possible trade destinations for Hachimura.
The speedy 25-year-old Hachimura has the size (6-foot-8, 230 pounds), length (7-foot-2 wingspan) and athleticism the Lakers desperately need in the frontcourt. His ability to play either forward helps balance the positional structure of the roster. It’s unclear whether Hachimura will start on Day 1, but he is expected to start alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis once the rotation settles, multiple team sources said. The Athletics.
Hachimura’s acquisition does not preclude the Lakers from making another trade before February 9th. They enter the next two-plus weeks armed with two first-round picks (2027 and 29) and three players (Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV and Russell Westbrook). ) they could use as salaries to match the roster update.
With Davis set to return soon, the Lakers are further evaluating their roster and rotation and still determining whether they want to make a minor or major upgrade with their draft trade asset. At this point, the most likely move would be to trade Beverley and a lottery-protected first-round pick for another wing or a 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 remains the name most often linked to the Lakers in league circles, but the Pistons are looking for an unprotected first-round pick, at the very least, in a trade could be, according to league sources. The Lakers’ preference is to provide lottery protection initially for the 34-year-old Bogdanović, though that could change as he faces the trade deadline clock.
Regardless of 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 reduced their backcourt jam, dumping their most productive guard for the small cost of three second-round picks, one of which (2028) is an exchange of a pick they originally had. At the same time, they became younger, bigger, longer, more athletic and more talented in landing Hachimura, who they can keep for several seasons . They showed they’re willing to take on more money — their luxury tax bill went up by nearly $3 million after the deal — for a team that’s currently 22-25 this season but has showed ability by going 10-9 with Davis out with him. right leg injury.
Internally, Los Angeles is high on Hachimura, believing he has untapped potential that the Wizards were unable to showcase after they chose to prioritize Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija. The Lakers are interested in keeping Hachimura and currently plan to re-sign the restricted free agent this offseason, league sources said. The Athletics. According to those sources, Hachimura is expected to earn a double-digit annual salary even though it is well below his nearly $19 million cap hit.
In 30 games this season, Hachimura is averaging 13.0 points on 55.8 percent true shooting, along with 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game (he missed 16 games earlier in the season with right ankle bone bruise). The Japanese native is shooting 33.7 percent on 3-point shots, a figure below the league average, but shot 44.7 percent from beyond the arc last season and 47.0 percent on 3s catch and shoot. That suggests he could shoot better in Los Angeles with James, Davis and Westbrook creating higher odds for him.
Hachimura fares 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 effort, consistency and awareness. The Lakers are hopeful that playing in head coach Darvin Ham’s system and alongside veterans like Davis, James, Westbrook and Beverley will help bring out Hachimura’s unknown defensive potential.
Durability is a concern, as Hachimura has never played more than 57 games in an NBA season – although that number has been somewhat surpassed last season, when Hachimura missed a bye of the Wizards, the first 39 games of the season to tend to his mental health.
At the very least, the arrival of Hachimura, along with the departure of Nunn, will reduce the number of three-guard lineups used by the Lakers, which will help on the defensive glass and against teams with multiple shades. The Lakers have had the size advantage in most games this season.
After allowing 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 not many 6-foot-8, 6 -foot-9 they had. the Grizzlies. This was not the first time he has expressed his displeasure with the lack of length and size in 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 expect three key pieces back soon in Davis, Austin Reaves and Walker IV, these five beginnings were always going to be temporary.
The front line of Davis-James-Hachimura gives the Lakers a versatile trio with good size, length and athleticism. They will be able to change most games with Davis serving as the best defensive big man Hachimura has played with in his four year career.
Hachimura enters as the third or fourth offensive option in most lineups, though his career average of 16.9 points per 36 minutes is sixth on the list behind James , Davis, Westbrook, Schröder and Bryant.
Nunn is the cost for the Lakers, who have been playing much better recently, but he is the odd man out when the Lakers are at full strength. With Reaves and Walker IV returning soon, Nunn, 27, would have been the team’s sixth guard at best, penciled in behind Reaves, Schröder, Walker IV, Beverley and Westbrook. He struggled to make an impact and find a rhythm this season, connecting on just 32.5 percent of his 3s. Aside from Damian Jones, Nunn was the best-spent player on the Lakers’ 14-man roster.
In truth, this was as good a trade as the Lakers were going to find in exchange for Nunn and several second-round picks. They may find their starter of the future, depending on how Hachimura responds, the rest of their trade activity and how the free agent market plays out this summer.
The 12th-place Lakers are just one game out of the No. 10 seed and two games back of the No. 1 seed. 6. With James and Davis both playing as top 10 players this season, they feel like the lower-seeded opponent nobody wants to face in a seven-game series – as long as they can get there.
This move helps them get closer. While this isn’t the kind of big deal that could propel the Lakers into contention, it’s a step in the right direction for the Lakers with minimal downside.
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(Photo of LeBron James and Hachimura: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)