The Los Angeles Lakers traded for Wizards forward Rui Hachimura on Monday and our Sam Quinn gave the move an A- for L.A., if only because the Lakers didn’t give up either of their coveted first-round picks to get him.
Chances are, unless you’re a Wizards fan, you’re more familiar with Hachimura’s name than his game. Generally speaking, he has the 6-foot-8 and sturdy size that everyone wants in a defensive wing these days, and he can shoot. The former will help the Lakers as it would help anyone, specifically as it will take some of that defensive burden off LeBron James to cover for what is an incredibly small team.
But it’s the latter point that will determine how much of an impact he really makes for the Lakers, who are a bad shooting team that would greatly benefit from Hachimura catching a couple-month hot streak as they try to sneak into the playoffs.
There’s hope on this front. Hachimura made 44 percent of his 3s last season, but he’s down to 33 percent this season on pretty low volume. Where he’s been effective this season is in the midrange. He’s most comfortable showing at the 3-point line before putting the ball on the floor one or two times for a pull-up jumper, which he’s hitting at a 52-percent clip so far. He hit a bunch of these in a 30-point performance against Orlando on Saturday.
These shots are great and will help any team if the efficiency holds up. But the Lakers, who make the fewest 3-pointers per game in the league, could really use a version of Hachimura who doesn’t turn down so many of these catch-and-shoot 3s to move in a step or two closer. To me, Hachimura could legitimately double his volume from three 3-pointers per game to something closer to six.
In the play below, swap out Delon Wright for LeBron James sucking the defense into the paint and imagine how many of these 3-point looks Hachimura could get with the Lakers.
Yes, Hachimura has only made 33 percent of his 3s overall this year, but he’s a better shooter than that — likely somewhere between the 44-percent clip last year and this year’s mark. In fact, he’s making 42 percent of his wide-open 3s this season. He’s only taken 50 of them, but these quality catch-and-shoot looks are going to be more plentiful with the Lakers.
LeBron isn’t a guaranteed bet to get into the paint anymore, but he still draws defenders and kicks to shooters as well as anyone not named Luka Doncic, both in the half court and transition. Watch this sequence below and imagine Anthony Davis blocking the shot, LeBron pushing in the open floor and Hachimura spotting up in the corner, where he’s made 43 and 42 percent of his attempts the last two seasons, respectively.
Indeed, LeBron still creates that kind of shot in his sleep. Davis will create plenty as well when he demands double teams. They just doesn’t have good shooters to consistently hold up their end of the bargain. Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker and Dennis Schroder are the best bets. Hachimura has the potential to be the best of that bunch and perhaps the most meaningful spacer in closing lineups that will likely continue to include Russell Westbrook.
But for this to happen, Hachimura has to trust his 3-point jumper more often. He can’t fall into his preferred routine of predominantly putting the ball on the floor for contested midrange shots, even if he’s hitting those at a good clip. The Lakers need 3-point shooting. Hachimura can, in theory, provide that. If he does, and especially if it comes at a higher volume, the Lakers just picked up a real two-way contributor on the cheap.