Out of nowhere on Monday, the Lakers finally pulled the trigger on a trade for Rui Hachimura, sending out Kendrick Nunn and a trio of second-round picks. It’s a move that will have a ripple effect both across the league as it could signal the unofficial start of trade season as well as within the Lakers.
Those are the focus of today's reports and headlines.
Stepping right into the lineup
The Lakers’ trade for Hachimura addressed a dire need for size on the wing that the roster has long had and only came at the cost of decluttering their crowdy backcourt, an added bonus. Despite having been relegated to the bench in Washington in favor of Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis, the expectation in Los Angels is for Hachimura to step into the starting lineup, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic (emphasis mine).
The soon-to-be 25-year-old Hachimura has the size (6 foot 8, 230 pounds), length (7-foot-2 wingspan) and athleticism that the Lakers desperately need in the frontcourt. His ability to play either forward spot helps balance the roster’s positional structure. It’s unclear if Hachimura will start on Day 1, but the expectation is that he will start next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis once the rotation settles, multiple team sources told The Athletic.
Hachimura’s presence can take some of the load off LeBron James in terms of having to play as the team’s lone true forward and wing, both of which should be welcome additions as well. Given Rui’s skill set, a front court of LeBron, Hachimura and Anthony Davis allows the latter to continue to play center without sacrificing spacing, a luxury this team hasn’t had.
There are concerns defensively, the biggest area of weakness in Rui’s, but the hope is that he can make a turnaround on that end all while negating some of the loss defensively with what he can bring to the table offensively. And for a Lakers team that has sported a number of 3- and 4-guard lineups, having someone taller than 6’4” on the wing is needed.
Cold feet on Cam Reddish?
A byproduct of trading for Hachimura means that a deal for Cam Reddish is far less likely. Nunn was one of only two contracts, along with Lonnie Walker IV, that could have been sent out in a one-for-one trade for Reddish.
There are still machinations of the trade that could still work, but it sounds like the Lakers may have chosen trading for Rui over trading for Reddish and have moved on from the latter, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.
The Lakers have negotiated with the New York Knicks for over a year on forward Cam Reddish, and while that door isn’t entirely closed, it’s unlikely.
Prior to Monday’s trade, Dan Woike of the LA Times had shared some similar sentiments that the Lakers weren’t certain that a trade of Nunn for Reddish was a clear upgrade.
Reddish has better size and fits a real need on the wing, but there’s not a consensus internally that he’d be an upgrade.
There’s also another reason not to make the deal, and for the Lakers, it might be the more powerful argument. If the Lakers trade Nunn for Reddish, they can’t trade Nunn in a package for someone who would be way more likely to make the Lakers more of a threat.
It may not have necessarily been an either-or decision for the Lakers, but presented with both opportunities, knowing the price of each and having studied the prospects, choosing Hachimura over Reddish was their call and one that likely makes sense.
Big payday in store for Rui?
The Lakers have already made their intentions clear when it comes to Rui’s future that they traded for him with the idea of agreeing to a contract this summer and keeping him around long-term. The number the two sides agree upon, though, could be up for debate.
Hachimura’s cap hold will be $18.8 million this offseason, a figure that most feel is well north of what his next contract will be worth. However, in Pincus’ same article, Rui and his camp will head into free agency expecting that to be a realistic starting point for his next contract (emphasis mine).
While Hachimura is in the final year of his contract, the Lakers acquired him with the expectation of bringing him back. He’ll be a restricted free agent, taking up $18.8 million of the team’s potential cap space unsigned. With Hachimura, the projected room drops from just over $30 million to about $13 million.
And Hachimura is believed to be seeking a contract in the range of his cap hold, so the Lakers aren’t likely to be a big player in the cap room market in July.
For now, this feels like nothing more than agent speak and negotiating tactics. Realistically, based on how his career has panned out before his Lakers tenure, there’s no chance a team would pay him $18.8 million annually in a long-term contract.
There’s also no reason for Rui and his agent to not make that starting point. It’d be bad business if they said “actually, we think he’s worth $10-15 million,” which feels like much closer to his range. Let the remainder of his season in Los Angeles play out before getting worried about free agency and contract negotiations.
Hornets open for business
One last noteworthy nugget that isn’t specifically linked to the Lakers but would be something worth noting is the situation in Charlotte. Entering Tuesday’s nights contests, the Hornets sat at 13-35, 10 games out of the play-in race and 1.5 games out of the top spot in the draft lottery.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that they appear set to start tanking. On his Substack over the weekend, longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein reported the team was no open to discussing trades.
Yet there is a rising belief leaguewide that Utah is open to listening to trade pitches for anyone on the roster not named Lauri Markkanen or Walker Kessler and that Charlotte is likewise prepared to take calls on veterans like Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre Jr. as the Hornets prioritize lottery position in the wake of LaMelo Ball‘s third ankle injury this season.
The Lakers have been linked to a number of Hornets players, perhaps most notably in Terry Rozier. With Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook still tradeable contracts and their first round picks available, there’s a possibility of a deal there, even if the Lakers and Charlotte haven’t been linked in discussions in some time.