After months and months of waiting, the Lakers finally pulled the trigger on Rui Hachimura, a player that, hilariously, they had never once been linked to. There’s certainly plenty to like about Hachimura both in the present and in the future.
And despite Hachimura being in the final year of his rookie contract before being set for restricted free agency, the Lakers intend on making him part of the future. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the team dealt for Hachimura with the intention of extending him this summer.
The Lakers traded for Hachimura with the intention of signing him to an extension this summer, sources tell ESPN. Hachimura can be a restricted free agent. https://t.co/TAdM1h8iAH— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 23, 2023
Hachimura is still just 24 years — though he’s set to turn 25 in a couple of weeks time — and joins a younger Lakers core that basically only includes Max Christie and Austin Reaves right now. But Hachimura looks to join that group and could be the one with their highest ceiling yet.
He is still a former top-ten pick just four years ago and all of the things that made him an intriguing prospect still exist. He’s still a 6’8” forward with a 7’2” wingspan. He still has an ability stretch the floor and be a high-level scorer. Even as things soured in Washington, Hachimura poured in 30 points in his final game as a Wizard on Saturday.
There are some questions that exist. His 3-point percentage has been shaky for much of his career outside of one season in which he shot 44.7% from beyond the arc. Even then, there are aspects of those numbers that should be cause for optimism.
No Lakers* have made over 40% of their catch-and-shoot 3s this season— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) January 23, 2023
Rui Hachimura has made 85 of 206 (41.3%) catch-and-shoot 3s over his last two seasons.
*Among 7 with at least 100 such tries pic.twitter.com/IYtCsU2GRl
Factor in the gravity that comes with playing alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James and there’s a lot to like about this low-risk move for the Lakers.
Hachimura also spoke about his desire to play at a place where he was desired. The Lakers have found success with players in search of a new environment that had previously underwhelmed in recent seasons in both Malik Monk and Lonnie Walker IV. Hachimura’s previous relationship with Russell Westbrook could also factor into him finding more comfort and success in Los Angeles.
It would also behoove the Lakers to work on an extension with Hachimura considering what his cap hold would be. The longer Westbrook remains a Laker this season, the more it seems like the team will head into the offseason with cap space. And if that’s the case, having Hachimura on his cap hold, which will come in at $18.8 million, would drastically cut into the space available.
Instead, by signing him to an extension that will come in at figure well under that $18.8 million, the Lakers open up more cap space to sign other players as well.
In total, there are a number of reasons why the Lakers should explore an extension for Hachimura. It’s a calculated move from the Lakers front office who may have taken a long time to make a deal but appears to have made a smart move in doing so.