Months and months of waiting has come to an end, as the Lakers are finally making a trade. According to multiple reports, the team has agreed to a deal with the Wizards for Rui Hachimura that will include Kendrick Nunn and multiple second-round picks.
Finalized deal: Rui Hachimura for Kendrick Nunn, 2023 second via Chicago, 2029 LA second and and less favorable of 2028 Washington/LA seconds, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 23, 2023
The Lakers confirmed the news a few hours later.
“We are excited to welcome Rui and his family to the Los Angeles Lakers,” said Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka in the team’s statement. “Adding both size and depth to the wing position has been a goal, and the chance to accomplish that by acquiring a player with Rui’s two-way skills and upside was an opportunity that doesn’t present itself often.”
Hachimura is a forward that has struggled to find his footing in Washington at times but still has been statistically productive. Across his four-year career, Hachimura is averaging 13 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 47.9% from the field and 35.6% from the 3-point line. That 3-point shooting mark is buoyed by his third season in which he shot 44.7%, as he has not cleared 34% in any other season in his career, including this year where he’s shooting just 33.7%.
In the final year of his rookie deal, the Wizards began shopping Hachimura after the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on an extension heading into the season. This past weekend, even, Hachimura was coy in his responses when asked about his future in Washington and whether he had requested a trade. Ironically, it was the arrival of Kyle Kuzma and his success with the Wizards that pushed Hachimura, a former No. 9 overall pick, out of the starting lineup and out of the future plans for the franchise.
Hachimura was a coveted prospect on the trade market with Kings, Mavericks and Bucks all reportedly interested in him. Ultimately, though, it was the Lakers that proved to be the partner the Wizards chose, which shouldn’t be all that surprising. This deal would be the third trade the two sides have completed in the last three years, one to help clear cap space in the summer of 2019 and the other being the Russell Westbrook deal.
There is plenty about this trade on paper that makes sense for the Lakers. Hachimura now joins LeBron James and Wenyen Gabriel as the only non-centers on the Lakers roster listed taller than 6’6”, giving them size they’ve desperately needed on the wing. He also has a close relationship with Russell Westbrook that could potentially help him flourish in Los Angeles this year as well.
But for large portions of his career, the idea of what Hachimura could be has been better than what he actually has been on the court. The Lakers have a growing track record of taking players who perhaps have been underutilized or miscast and finding the right role for them and perhaps Hachimura can be that next player. Ultimately, considering his price, his potential and the fact the Lakers could have him under contract moving forward, it’s a risk that makes plenty of sense.
It does rid the Lakers of a healthy amount of their trade assets. Dealing away three second-round picks chips away at a good chunk of their draft capital, while Kendrick Nunn is one of only a few contracts the Lakers could realistically trade. For example, this could take the Lakers out of the Cam Reddish sweepstakes, as only Nunn or Lonnie Walker’s contracts matched up with Reddish’s contract in a one-for-one trade.
Other iterations of the trade could be possible, but the Lakers clearly valued Hachimura over Reddish as a trade target. Considering how long they’ve sat back and calculated things this season, it should be a decision that has plenty of thought behind it.