The Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards have completed a trade that sends fourth-year forward Rui Hachimura to Los Angeles in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks (in 2023, 2028 and 2029), teams announced Monday. Hachimura is averaging 13.0 points and 4.3 rebounds this season and hit a season-high 30 points against the Magic this weekend.
The Lakers have been in trade talks across the league for most of the season. They spent the offseason trying to find a new home for beleaguered point guard Russell Westbrook, and when that failed, they entered the season with a roster heavy on guards and light on wings.
Their lopsided roster only became more problematic as the season progressed. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missed a lot of time, and both were key in defending opposing forwards. Lately, standout role players Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV, who have also defended on the wings, have been out through injury. This has forced the Lakers to use lineups that include three, four, and against Dallas at Christmas, even five guards just to make sure their best players are on the court.
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They looked for wing help on the trade market, but that usually doesn’t come cheap, and they were hesitant to include their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks in trades to find improvements. From this point of view, Hachimura represents the perfect compromise.
Hachimura, now in the final season of his rookie contract after being picked No. 9 overall in 2019, missed much of last season for personal reasons and suffered a bone bruise that forced him to missing games this season. During that time, he struggled to find his place on a Wizards team loaded with players of rotating caliber but lacking the kind of veterans who could help him become what Washington was hoping for when he was drafted. Things took a turn over the weekend, when Hachimura said he wasn’t sure he wanted to be traded. “I just want to be somewhere that wants me as a basketball player, and I want to be somewhere that loves my game,” he said. told reporters.
Now he will get his wish. Hachimura joins a Lakers team that desperately needs someone in his position and is apparently ready to invest in his development for at least the rest of the season. As such, they get a solid rating for the move.
Los Angeles Lakers: A-
The Lakers are, based on listed heights, the shortest team in the NBA this season. A dozen players have played 400 minutes for them this season and eight of them are goalkeepers. 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, played almost half of his minutes as a power forward. It was and remains a ridiculously small team even when Anthony Davis is healthy. They badly needed an advanced-sized human being, but advanced-sized human beings are among the NBA’s rarest commodities. Last season they found Stanley Johnson on the junk heap and secured significant production. Being 6-foot-8 and playing with energy is extremely valuable.
Hachimura is this season’s low risk, high reward addition, and the upside is significantly higher. Johnson was a notoriously poor shooter. Hachimura is more of a mixed bag. He’s only attempted 2.5 3-pointers per game for his career, and his percentages have been inconsistent for his career. He made 33.3% of his 3 catch-and-shoots in 2021 and is there again this season, but last year he made 47%. The truth lies somewhere in between, but Hachimura never had a playmaker like LeBron James to create his look and he never had a big man like Anthony Davis to draw defenses to the edge for him. . He’s hit 42% of his 3 wide open this season, but got just 50 of those attempts. He will have plenty as a Laker.
His defense has been inconsistent, but the metrics are moving in the right direction. FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR and Dunks & Threes’ EPM both rate it as slightly positive. It is not difficult to understand why. An athletic 6-foot-8 frame with a 7-foot-2 wingspan will always cause problems, and the Wizards have used it on the opposing leading scorer often in recent years. He’s not a stopper, but just having a player with the right physical proportions to guard those players is important because it ensures LeBron James doesn’t need him. The Lakers have solved that problem so far with extremely undersized Patrick Beverley. It didn’t go well.
Hachimura’s development has been uneven in Washington. The Lakers have a solid track record with such players. They rehabilitated the value of Malik Monk a season ago. They did the same with Lonnie Walker IV this season. The Lakers do well with young athletes who know how to shoot. This largely describes Hachimura. The Lakers have spent months trying to find a way to land such a player without including their 2027 or 2029 first-round picks. Now they have.
It’s also the only thing keeping them from getting an A. It’s a good trade. The Lakers need a great trade to get into the championship picture. Hachimura will insert as a rotation player. They’re at least one solid starter away from true contention, and that player probably needs to come to Hachimura’s position. His former Washington teammate Kyle Kuzma has been mooted as a possibility. Just like Bojan Bogdanovic. The Lakers have just improved up front. They are still skinny there. If this is the first of several trades made by the Lakers? Great, they have a chance to make noise.
If they consider this trade as their only move? Well, things get more complicated. Not only will this likely knock them out of the championship this season, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski 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 cap space this offseason, when they can create around $34 million to sue players from other teams. Hachimura’s $18.8 million cap will only make that harder. It’s an easier pill to swallow if he helps the Lakers have a deep playoff run, but without another deal, that probably won’t happen. All of that creates just enough questions to lower the rating to an “A-,” but all things considered, getting that kind of talent without giving up a first-round pick is almost entirely a win for the Lakers.
Washington Wizards: D-
Wizards didn’t make matters worse with this trade. That’s pretty much all the credit they deserve here. They did not accept a long-term salary. They didn’t give a choice. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a harmful trade. It’s just disappointing.
Hachimura is not, say, Johnny Davis. He’s not a lottery loser who proved almost immediately that he wasn’t going to be able to play at the NBA level. Hachimura was actually quite good in parts of four seasons as a wizard. Averaging 13 points per game on reasonable overall efficiency and a league-average 3-point shot is nothing to scoff at. Most metrics class him as an average defender this season at a prime position. He has, at various times in his career, taken on the most difficult opposing missions. He has great physical tools and more or less lived up to expectations for a late lottery pick.
He may not be a player to build around, but he is a player to invest in. It’s something the Wizards just haven’t done in a while. The Wizards’ final draft pick to win an overtime? That would be Otto Porter Jr., who was taken out nearly a decade ago in the 2013 NBA draft. Let’s take a look at their first-round picks since then:
Again, the Wizards have proven unwilling or unable to properly develop young players. This is going to become increasingly problematic for them as their two injury-prone stars, Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, age out of the phases of their careers in which they can keep this team afloat without support. If the Wizards can’t quickly create an internal support system for them, any facade of competitiveness this team hoped to maintain will quickly fade, and when it does, developing the young players they take back to the top of the lottery will be their only way to escape the bottom of the leaderboard.
Right now, it doesn’t seem like wizards are equipped to do that. Whether or not Hachimura met Washington’s hopes is almost irrelevant. He is a young player with talent. Wizards don’t have many. A handful of second-round picks isn’t an adequate replacement for one, and yet, given their history, that’s about all they can really hope to turn into their talented young players.