With the completion of a trade for Rui Hachimura, the Los Angeles Lakers are making a long overdue upgrade on the wing – both for this season and possibly for the future.
After months of deliberation about finding the right player and deal, the Lakers opportunistically struck at Hachimura, the No. 9 in the 2019 NBA Draft, who had become increasingly unhappy due to the lack of a contract renewal and diminished role this season with the Washington Wizards. , league sources confirmed The athletic. The Lakers shipped Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks to Washington, the teams announced Monday.
The Lakers and Wizards discussed the deal for several days, with draft compensation being the main point of negotiation, according to league sources. The athletic reported last week that Washington was exploring potential trade destinations for Hachimura.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old Hachimura has the size (6 feet 8, 230 pounds), height (7 feet-2 wingspan) and athleticism that the Lakers desperately need in the frontcourt. His ability to play both forwards helps balance the squad’s positional structure. It is unclear if Hachimura will start on Day 1, but he is expected to start alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis once the rotation is settled, multiple team sources said. The athletic.
The acquisition of Hachimura does not prevent the Lakers from making another trade before February 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). ) that they could use as matching salaries when upgrading the roster.
With Davis returning soon, the Lakers are further evaluating the roster and rotation and are still determining whether to make a minor or major upgrade with their tradable 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 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 associated with the Lakers in league circles, but the Pistons are at least looking for an unprotected first-round pick in a potential trade, according to league sources. The Lakers’ preference is to only give up a lottery-protected scoop for 34-year-old Bogdanović, though that could change as it approaches the trade deadline.
Whatever happens next, the Hachimura trade is an undisputed victory for Lakers VP of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office.
The Lakers eased their backcourt blockade by dumping their least productive guard for the small price of three second-round picks, one of which (2028) is a trade for a pick they originally owned. In turn, they became younger, taller, taller, more athletic and more talented in bringing in Hachimura, who they can keep for several seasons. They’ve shown they’re willing to take on more money — their luxury tax bill increased by nearly $3 million after the deal — for a team that’s currently 22-25 this season but has shown its potential by going 10-9 to go with Davis out with a right foot injury.
Internally, Los Angeles ranks high on Hachimura, believing him to have untapped potential that he was unable to show with the Wizards after they chose 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 athletic. According to those sources, Hachimura is expected to have a double-digit annual salary, though well below his cap of nearly $19 million.
In 30 games this season, Hachimura averages 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 this season with a bone contusion in his right ankle). The Japanese shoots 33.7 percent on 3-point shots, a figure that’s below the league average, but last season he shot 44.7 percent from outside the arc and 47.0 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s. That indicates he could shoot better in Los Angeles with James, Davis and Westbrook creating a higher percentage of looks for him.
Hachimura does well in most defensive stats, 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 his effort, consistency and awareness. The Lakers are optimistic that playing in head coach Darvin Ham’s system and alongside veterans like Davis, James, Westbrook and Beverley will help unleash Hachimura’s unrealized defensive potential.
Durability is a bit of a concern, as Hachimura has never played more than 57 games in an NBA season – though that number is partially skewed by last season, when Hachimura, with the Wizards’ blessing, played the first 39 games of the season. missed the season to take care of his mental health.
Hachimura’s arrival, coupled with Nunn’s departure, will at least reduce the number of three-guard lineups the Lakers use, which will help on the defensive glass and against teams with multiple wing scorers. The Lakers have had a size advantage in most games this season.
After allowing 39 replay 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 that many six-foot-tall players. the Grizzlies. It was not the first time he expressed his displeasure at the lack of length and size of the squad this season.
“I think we’re playing with three or four 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 key pieces expected back soon in Davis, Austin Reaves and Walker IV, this starting five are always temporary.
A Davis-James-Hachimura front line gives the Lakers a versatile trio with good size, height and athleticism. They will be able to substitute between most games, with Davis being easily the best defensive big man Hachimura has played with in his four-year career.
Hachimura will be the third or fourth offensive option in most lineups, though his career average of 16.9 points per 36 minutes ranks sixth behind James, Davis, Westbrook, Schröder and Bryant.
The cost to the Lakers is Nunn, who has been playing much better lately, but is the odd man out when the Lakers are at full strength. With Reaves and Walker IV returning soon, the 27-year-old Nunn would have been sixth guard on the team at best, behind Reaves, Schröder, Walker IV, Beverley and Westbrook. He’s struggled to impress and find a rhythm this season, hitting just 32.5 percent of his 3s. Aside from Damian Jones, Nunn was the most expendable player on the Lakers’ 14-man roster.
Realistically, this was as good a trade as the Lakers would find in exchange for Nunn and multiple picks in the second round. They may have found their starting point for the future depending on how Hachimura fits in, the rest of their trading 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 as top-10 players this season, they loom as the potential lower-ranking opponent no one wants to face in a seven-game series – as long as they can get there.
This movement helps them get closer. While it’s not the type of blockbuster deal that could send the Lakers into contention, it’s a step in the right direction for the Lakers with minimal downsides.
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(Photo by LeBron James and Hachimura: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)