Washington Wizards: Rui Hachimura continues to showcase potential

Washington Wizards’ rookie Rui Hachimura put on a stellar showing in the team’s first scrimmage, continuing to show untapped potential.

The Washington Wizards kicked off their season restart against the Denver Nuggets yesterday in a game that saw a couple of rookies put on stellar performances. Bol Bol of the Nuggets justifiably stole the show in his first game with Denver as he tallied 16 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocked shots. However, Rui Hachimura of the Wizards also had a great game, overshadowed by Bol.

Hachimura finished as the leading scorer on either side with 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting from the field, including 1-for-2 from behind the arc, and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. The big man nearly notched a double-double as he fell just shy with nine rebounds, also dishing an assist in 26 total minutes of action.

The shorthanded Washington Wizards ultimately fell to the Denver Nuggets 89-82, but seeing Hachimura perform at a high-level was a promising sign.

The 22-year-old had a stellar rookie campaign for the Wizards up until the stoppage of play in March with totals of 13.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game in 41 games. The No. 9 overall draft pick showcased potential in this irregular season and will likely continue to do so in the NBA’s restart.

With the team without arguably their top three players in John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Davis Bertans, their hopes of contending in the season restart were slim from the beginning.

Sitting 5.5 games behind the 8-seeded Orlando Magic, the Wizards need to make up 1.1 games on them to initiate a play-in spot for the 8-seed.

The chances of Washington going on a miracle run seem slim to none, but this could be the perfect opportunity for Rui Hachimura to develop. Without their star trio, Hachimura is now the figurehead for the Wizards and could use it to his advantage. Last month head coach Scott Brooks detailed how he wants Hachimura to step up with this depleted roster and work on his craft.

Via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post:

“Improve his defense. Improve his rebounding. Improve his ballhandling. Improve all areas, not just one thing,” Brooks said at the end of June, when the Wizards were first returning to workouts at Entertainment and Sports Arena.

With so many key pieces out of the rotation, Brooks also detailed how he wants to see Hachimura emerge as a leader in the restart, something teammate Mortiz Wagner says is coming along.

“He feels comfortable, I think, in this environment. We need that. He’s a big part of our offense and team as one of our top scorers and most consistent weapons, so we need him to speak up and be consistent with that and have a confidence and feel comfortable in this environment. I think he’s proven that the last couple days. It’s fun to be around him.”

As seen in the scrimmage against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, Rui Hachimura has an opportunity to step up and evolve as a player. The big man is going to get more shots, more playing time, and, ultimately, more of an opportunity to expand his game.

If he can take that next step, the 22-year-old could be the perfect complement to a healthy Bradley Beal and John Wall as they look to get back into legitimate contention next season.

The Washington Wizards will have two more scrimmages, one on July 25th against the LA Clippers and another against the Los Angeles Lakers on July 27th before the season kicks off on July 31st. Although the odds are against him, Rui Hachimura could look to make some noise with this Washington team as he develops into a star.