Can Rui Hachimura help transform the Lakers into a playoff team?

Rui Hachimura (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
Rui Hachimura (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

Although we are still several weeks ahead of the February 9th trade deadline, trade season is in full swing around the NBA. Tis the season for mock trades, ambiguous player tweets, and heaps of rumors. One name that has continued to come up over the past few weeks is Rui Hachimura, the 24-year-old power forward from the Wizards.

Well, Monday afternoon, trade season officially kicked off with the Lakers making the first notable trade of the season. They acquired Hachimura in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and several second-round draft picks. Like myself, many NBA fans expected the Lakers to be active in the trade market this season.

With LeBron James still defying Father Time and playing some of his best basketball, Laker fans are pleading with the front office to surround him with enough talent to make another title run. Despite this, I was still a bit surprised by their most recent trade.

Does Rui Hachimura truly move the needle for the Los Angeles Lakers?

Hachimura is no doubt an interesting young piece for a Lakers team that is built mostly of veteran players. Just four years ago, Hachimura was a top-10 draft pick who many believed would develop into a versatile wing in the NBA. Since being drafted, though, Hachimura has had a fairly turbulent career. Hachimura has yet to reach his full potential, unable to carve out a significant role for the Wizards.

He has, however, proven to be a semi-reliable shooter with the potential to be an above-average NBA scorer. His defense has left much to be desired, however, at 6’8″ with a 7’2 wingspan, I believe that Hachimura still has the upside to develop into an adequate defender. This season, Hachimura has become somewhat buried in a Wizards roster that features several players at his position. Thus, it made sense for both parties to find Hachimura a new home before his rookie contract expires.

Personally, I feel that buying low on a player like Hachimura is a smart and low-risk move for the Lakers. Especially considering the price was only Kendrick Nunn and two second-round picks, there is not much to dislike about this deal. I certainly have questions about Hachimura’s fit on the Lakers, especially considering his past defensive struggles.

However, the Lakers now have another young piece who can not only contribute now but also certainly develop into a better player in the future. Hachimura is not the most consistent shooter in the league, but he should be able to provide adequate shooting around James and Anthony Davis on a Lakers team desperate for spacing.

Hachimura has potential but the Lakers have more work to do.

I will be very interested to see whether or not Hachimura will be a part of the starting lineup once Anthony Davis returns from injury. I have always believed Hachimura’s most natural position is at the power forward slot, and I could see him fulfilling this role if the Lakers choose to play James James at the PG as they have in the past.

However, if Dennis Schroder and Patrick Beverly remain in the starting lineup, I believe Hachimura’s best production might come from a role off the bench. Time will tell just how the Lakers plan to use Hachimura going forward, however, and as they currently sit in 12th place in the Western Conference, it would be to their benefit to figure it out sooner rather than later.

While certainly an upgrade, I am not sold on Hachimura alone making the Lakers a serious playoff team. However, LA still has two first-round picks at their disposal to upgrade their roster before February 9th. I predict that this is the first but not the last trade we will see from the Lakers this season.

If the Lakers are able to acquire one or two more competent veteran pieces before the deadline, they could certainly make some noise in the playoffs. Players like Bojan Bogdanovic are still available and likely to be moved before the deadline, and I expect the Lakers to be active in their pursuit of them.

Next. Trade Grades: Rui Hachimura traded to the Lakers. dark

As long as there are more moves to come, I have no issues with the Lakers trading for Hachimura, but as I stated, he alone will not be enough to save the Lakers’ season. Lakers fans will have to be patient and wait for more reinforcements to arrive. Until then, however, it will be very interesting to see how Hachimura is able to contribute to his new team in Los Angeles.