The Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards have completed a trade that will send fourth-year Rui Hachimura to Los Angeles in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks (in 2023, 2028 and 2029), according to The athletic. Hachimura has averaged 13.0 points and 4.3 rebounds this season on 33.7 percent 3-point shooting and tied a season high with 30 points against the Magic on Saturday.
The Lakers have been deep in league trade talks for almost all season. They spent the off-season looking for a new home for embattled point guard Russell Westbrook, and when that failed, they entered the season with a roster full of guards and few wings.
Their unbalanced roster only became more problematic as the season progressed. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missed a significant amount of time and both were essential defending forwards. Lately, standout role players Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV, who have also defended wings, have been out due to injury. This has forced the Lakers to use lineups with three, four, and by Dallas at Christmas even five guards to make sure their best players are on the floor.
They’ve sought wing help in the trade market, but it usually doesn’t come cheap, and they’ve been hesitant to include their first round of 2027 and 2029 in trades to find upgrades. From that perspective, Hachimura represents the perfect compromise.
Hachimura, now in the final season of his rookie deal after being selected as number 9 in 2019, missed much of last season for personal reasons and suffered a bone contusion that forced him to miss games this season. Meanwhile, he struggles to find his place on a Wizards squad filled with rotational caliber players, but without the kind of veterans who could help him develop into what Washington hoped for when he was drafted. Things came to a head over the weekend, when Hachimura said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be traded. “I just want to be somewhere that I want to be a basketball player, and I want to be somewhere that I love my game,” he said. told reporters.
Now he gets his way. Hachimura joins a Lakers team that desperately needs someone in its position and seemingly willing to invest in its development for at least the rest of the season. As such, they deserve a solid mark for the move.
Los Angeles Lakers: A-
The Lakers are the shortest team in the NBA this season, based on heights listed. A dozen players have played 400 minutes for them this season and eight of them are guards. Austin Reaves, a 6-foot-5 collegiate point guard, has spent most of his minutes at small forward this season. Troy Brown Jr., a six-foot-tall winger who began his career as a guard, has played nearly half of his minutes at power forward. This was and remains a ridiculously small team, even if Anthony Davis is healthy. They desperately needed a man of stature, but men of stature are among the NBA’s rarer commodities. Last season, they found Stanley Johnson in the scrap yard and got a meaningful production. Being six feet tall and playing with energy is extremely valuable.
Hachimura is the low-risk, high-reward addition this season, and the upside is significantly greater. Johnson was a notoriously bad shooter. Hachimura is more of a mixed bag. He has attempted only 2.5 3-pointers per game in his career, and his percentages have been inconsistent for his career. He made 33.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s in 2021 and is back at it this season, but made it 47 percent last year. The truth is somewhere in between, but Hachimura has never had a playmaker like LeBron James to create his looks and he’s never had a big man like Anthony Davis to pull the defense to the brink for him. He’s made 42 percent of his wide-open 3’s this season, but has only conceded 50 of those attempts. He’ll get enough as Laker.
His defense was inconsistent, but the stats are moving in the right direction. RAPTOR from FiveThirtyEight and EPM from Dunks & Threes both rate him as slightly positive. It’s not hard to see why. An athletic six-foot frame with a wingspan of 7 feet 2 will always cause problems, and the Wizards have often used it on the opposition’s top scorer in recent years. He’s not a stopper, but just having a player of the right physical proportions to guard those players is important because it ensures that LeBron James doesn’t have to. The Lakers have so far solved that problem with the extremely underpowered Patrick Beverley. It didn’t go well.
Hachimura’s development is uneven in Washington. The Lakers have a strong track record with such players. They restored Malik Monk’s value a season ago. They’ve done the same thing this season with Lonnie Walker IV. The Lakers do well with young athletes who can shoot. That describes Hachimura broadly. The Lakers have spent months trying to find a way to bring in such a player without including their 2027 or 2029 first-round picks. They have now done that.
That’s also the only thing stopping them from getting an A. This is a good trade. The Lakers need a great trade to get into the championship picture. Hachimura will participate as a rotation player. They’re at least one solid starter away from real combat, and that player should probably get into Hachimura’s position. His former Washington teammate Kyle Kuzma has been discussed as a possibility. So is Bojan Bogdanovic. The Lakers just improved ahead. They are still thin there. If this is the first of several trades the Lakers are making? Great, they have a chance to make some noise.
If they consider this trade as their only move? Well, things are getting messier. Not only does that mean they’re likely to be banned from championship contention this season, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has 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 make about $34 million chasing players from other teams. Hachimura’s $18.8 million caphold will only make that more difficult. That’s an easier pill to swallow if he helps the Lakers to a deep playoff run, but without another deal, that probably won’t happen. All of this raises just enough questions to drop the grade to an “A-,” but all told, getting this kind of talent without giving up a first-round pick is almost a win for the Lakers.
Washington Wizards: D-
The wizards have not made matters worse with this trade. That’s about as much credit as they deserve here. They did not take a long-term salary. They have not given away any choices. In general, this is not a harmful trade. It’s just disappointing.
For example, Hachimura is not Johnny Davis. He’s not some lottery bust who almost immediately proved he couldn’t play at the NBA level. Hachimura was actually pretty good for parts of four seasons as a wizard. Averaging 13 points per game on reasonable overall efficiency and league average 3-point shooting is nothing to scoff at. By most stats, he is an average defender in a premium position this season. He has taken on the toughest assignments of the adversary at various times in his career. He has great physical resources and has more or less lived up to the expectations of a belated lottery.
That may not be a player to build around, but it is a player to invest in. That’s something the Wizards haven’t done in quite some time. The Wizards’ final pick to earn an extension? That would be Otto Porter Jr. being taken nearly a decade ago during the 2013 NBA Draft. Let’s take a look at their first-round picks since then:
Once again the Wizards have proven they are unwilling or unable to properly develop young players. That becomes increasingly problematic for them as their two injury-prone stars, Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, grow past the stages of their careers where they can keep this team afloat without support. If the Wizards can’t quickly create an internal support system for them, any façade of competitiveness this team hoped to maintain will soon fade, and if it does, developing the young players they field at the top of the lottery will their only way to escape the bottom of the leaderboard.
At the moment, it seems that the Wizards are not equipped to do that. Whether or not Hachimura lived up to Washington’s expectations is almost immaterial. He is a young player with talent. The Wizards don’t have much of it. A handful of second-round selections isn’t a suitable substitute for one, and yet, given their history, it’s just about all they can ever expect to make of their talented young players.