Rui Hachimura traded to Lakers: How this move helps Los Angeles now and later

Rui Hachimura was traded to the Lakers: How this move will benefit Los Angeles now and in the future

The Los Angeles Lakers completed a trade for Rui Hachimura, providing a long-awaited upgrade on the wing — both for this season and potentially for the future.

After months of deliberation over finding the right player and deal, the Lakers pounced on Hachimura, the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft who had grown increasingly dissatisfied with his lack of a contract extension and diminished role with the Washington Wizards this season, league sources confirmed to The Athletic. The Lakers traded Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks to the Washington Wizards on Monday.

According to league sources, the Lakers and Wizards negotiated the deal for several days, with draft compensation being the main sticking point.

Last week, The Athletic reported that Washington was looking into potential trade destinations for Hachimura.

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The soon-to-be 25-year-old Hachimura possesses the size (6’8″, 230 pounds), length (7’2 wingspan), and athleticism that the Lakers desperately require in the frontcourt. His versatility as a forward helps to balance the roster’s positional structure. It’s unclear whether Hachimura will play on Day 1, but multiple team sources told The Athletic that he’ll start alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis once the rotation is set.

The addition of Hachimura does not preclude the Lakers from making another trade before February 9. They enter the next two weeks with two first-round picks (2027 and ’29), as well as three players (Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV, and Russell Westbrook) who could be used as matching salaries when upgrading the roster.

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With Davis expected to return soon, the Lakers are reevaluating their roster and rotation while deciding whether to make a minor or major upgrade with their draft picks. At this point, trading Beverley and a lottery-protected first-round pick for another wing or frontcourt upgrade appears to be their most likely option. However, depending on Davis’ recovery and the state of the market as the deadline approaches, the Lakers are willing to consider adding more assets in order to acquire a better player.

According to league sources, Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanovi remains the name most frequently associated with the Lakers, but the Pistons are looking for at least an unprotected first-round pick in a potential trade. The Lakers’ preference is to give up only a lottery-protected first round pick for the 34-year-old Bogdanovi, but that could change as the trade deadline approaches.

Whatever happens next, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office have unquestionably won with the Hachimura trade.

The Lakers solved their backcourt problem by trading their least productive guard for three second-round picks, one of which (2028) is a swap on a pick they already had. As a result, they became younger, bigger, longer, more athletic, and more talented by acquiring Hachimura, whom they can keep for multiple seasons.

They demonstrated their willingness to take on more money — their luxury tax bill increased by nearly $3 million as a result of the deal — for a team that is currently 22-25 this season but has demonstrated its potential by going 10-9 with Davis out with a right foot injury.

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Internally, the Lakers believe Hachimura has untapped potential that he was unable to demonstrate with the Wizards due to their decision to prioritize Kyle Kuzma and Deng Avdija. According to league sources, the Lakers are interested in keeping Hachimura and plan to re-sign him this offseason. According to those sources, Hachimura is expected to earn a salary in the double digits, though significantly less than his nearly $19 million cap hold.

Hachimura is averaging 13.0 points on 55.8 percent true shooting, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game in 30 games this season (he missed 16 games earlier in the season with a bone bruise in his right ankle). The Japanese native is shooting 33.7 percent on 3-point attempts, which is below league average, but he shot 44.7 percent from beyond the arc and 47.0 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s last season. That suggests he could shoot better in Los Angeles, where James, Davis, and Westbrook will be creating more high-percentage looks for him.

Hachimura performs well in most defensive metrics, ranging from above-average (plus-0.3 in defensive RAPTOR) to good (plus-0.9 in defensive EPM). The video depicts a physically gifted and talented defender who can improve his effort, consistency, and awareness. The Lakers believe that playing in Darvin Ham’s system and alongside veterans such as Davis, James, Westbrook, and Beverley will help bring out Hachimura’s untapped defensive potential.

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Durability is a concern, as Hachimura has never played more than 57 games in an NBA season — though that number is skewed by last season, when Hachimura missed the first 39 games of the season with the Wizards’ permission to attend to his mental health.

At the very least, Hachimura’s arrival, combined with Nunn’s departure, will reduce the Lakers’ use of three-guard lineups, which will help on the defensive glass and against teams with multiple wing scorers. In most games this season, the Lakers have had a size advantage.

After allowing 39 second-chance points to the Memphis Grizzlies last Friday, the most in over 25 years, James noted that they didn’t have as many 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 players as the Grizzlies. It wasn’t the first time he’d expressed his dissatisfaction with the roster’s lack of length and size this season.

“I think we’re down to three or four right now,” James explained.

The Lakers’ current starting lineup of Thomas Bryant, James, Troy Brown Jr., Beverley, and Dennis Schröder has found chemistry, but with three significant pieces expected back soon in Davis, Austin Reaves, and Walker IV, this starting five was always going to be temporary.

A frontline of Davis, James, and Hachimura provides the Lakers with a versatile trio of size, length, and athleticism. They’ll be able to switch between most matchups, with Davis being by far the best defensive big man Hachimura has faced in his four-year career.

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In most lineups, Hachimura will be the third or fourth offensive option, despite his career average of 16.9 points per 36 minutes ranking sixth on the roster behind James, Davis, Westbrook, Schröder, and Bryant.

Nunn, who had been playing much better recently but is the odd man out when the Lakers are at full strength, is the cost for the Lakers. Nunn, 27, would have been the team’s sixth guard at best, behind Reaves, Schröder, Walker IV, Beverley, and Westbrook, with Reaves and Walker IV returning soon. This season, he struggled to make an impact and find a rhythm, connecting on only 32.5 percent of his three-point attempts. Nunn, along with Damian Jones, was the most expendable player on the Lakers’ 14-man roster.

In reality, this was the best deal the Lakers could get in exchange for Nunn and multiple second-round picks. They may have found their future starting point, depending on how Hachimura fits in, the rest of their trade activity, and how the free-agent market plays out this summer.

The Lakers are one game behind the No. 10 seed and two games behind the No. 6 seed. With James and Davis both playing like top-10 players this season, they could be the lower-seeded opponent no one wants to face in a seven-game series — if they can get there.