Like the backup quarterback in football, the most popular player on a basketball team is one who plays very well in a limited role. For the Lakers, that player is Rui Hachimura. He was traded to Los Angeles last season, the first of many moves general manager Rob Pelinka made to start the improbable playoff run.
After re-signing with the Lakers this off-season, the question was, would Rui get an even bigger role during his first full season in L.A.? So far, it seems Darvin Ham believes he’s already in a perfect role as one of the first players off the bench.
Ham says that the team believes they can extract more out of Rui Hachimura offensively with him coming off of the bench.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) October 21, 2023
My early concern is that Hachimura may have too much of a green light when he plays with the second unit. In the season-opener against the Nuggets, for example, Hachimura went 3-10 from the field and his defense didn’t look great either.
When he plays with the starters, he is encouraged to acquiesce to other elite players such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Playing with those starter units will force him to focus more on the details of team basketball versus just putting him out there with the backup units and letting him “cook.”
Luckily, we’ve already seen Hachimura play well in high-stakes games. Last season, against these same Nuggets, he had monstrous games, going 8-10 from the field in Game 1 and 8-11 from the field in Game 2. If Ham and Hachimura figured it out on the fly during a sprint towards the playoffs, there’s no reason to believe they can’t unlock Hachiomura’s best self with an entire season in front of them.
Hachimura is remembered glowingly for his performance last year. He has a big following, can shift a game’s momentum when he gets going offensively and loves throwing up “L.A.” whenever a camera is near him. However, fans must be careful not to conflate their fondness for Hachimura with his actual production.
A player’s potential can be fool’s gold. It’ll have you convinced of the best traits of a player and confident the worst ones can simply disappear. We all have to be wary of thinking the solution to any players’ faults is giving them more run and responsibility. If Ham thinks Hachimura fits best on this team coming off the bench, then he should proceed as such until he has evidence to convince him otherwise.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.