Grading Los Angeles Lakers-Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura Trade

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 23, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on next to Rui Hachimura #8 of the Washington Wizards during the first half at Capital One Arena on March 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have traded draft picks for a player from the Washington Wizards!

It just isn't the draft picks or player you might expect.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers are acquiring Rui Hachimura from the Wizards in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and three second-rounders: Chicago's 2023 second, the less favorable of Washington's and L.A.'s second in 2028 and L.A.'s own 2029 second. The Lakers, per Woj, are making this move with the intention of re-signing Hachimura, who will enter restricted free agency over the summer. (There is no word yet on how many metric tons of salt L.A. will be dispersing as part of this deal.)

Ready? Set? Let's grade the trade!

Lakers Grade: B-

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: Rui Hachimura #8 of the Washington Wizards handles the ball during the game against the New York Knicks on January 18, 2023 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

There are two prisms through which this move must be viewed for the Lakers: the cost and fit of Hachimura, and what the deal says about how they'll approach the rest of the deadline.

Nothing nuclear needs to be taken away from L.A.'s overall logic. This team is not one Rui Hachimura flier away from title contention, but the Lakers aren't bridging the galaxy separating them from championship aspirations without a megadeal that includes forking over their 2027 and 2029 first-rounders. Just as jettisoning those picks for the sake of doing something, anything, makes very little sense, general manager Rob Pelinka and the front office can't not pursue other deals because they don't come with conditional tickets to the playoffs.

Taking on Hachimura is a quality dice roll, both now and over the long term. He turns 25 on Feb. 8 and arms the Lakers rotation with some much-needed size at the combo-forward spot, and his offensive armory, while still beset by inconsistency, has taken more of a discernible form.

Through 30 appearances this season, Hachimura is averaging 13.0 points while connecting on a career-high 54.5 percent of his twos and 33.7 percent of his threes. The 30 points he dropped against the Orlando Magic on Jan. 21 were an outlier, but also an indicator of how he might fare amid steadier volume. He is averaging 17.8 points on 62.2 true shooting, including a 40.9 percent clip from three (18-of-44), when he plays more than 25 minutes.

Building on that accuracy from deep will be critical to Hachimura's fit with the Lakers. Though he's fired away from deep on extremely low volume for his career (3.2 attempts per 36 minutes), he has downed his spot-up triples at a respectable clip:

Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA

Rui Hachimura has made 39.3% of his catch-and-shoot 3s since his 2nd year. By season:<br><br>2022-23: 36.6%<br>2021-22: 46.6%<br>2020-21: 34.1%<br><br>Streaky on a low volume of 2.6 per game (359 total shots), per <a href="https://twitter.com/SecondSpectrum?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SecondSpectrum</a>. But he's solid and should get plenty of open looks with the Lakers.

Catching passes from LeBron James is a lot different from being fed by Kyle Kuzma and Delon Wright. Hachimura should see an uptick in uncontested volume, particularly from the corners, where he's shooting 42 percent.

His fit inside the Lakers' transition offense might be more intriguing. He can get loosey-goosey when doing too much himself, but he knows how to get behind defenses on the run and attack in open space.

Exploring the rest of Hachimura's offense might be a chore. More than 40 percent of his field-goal attempts come from mid-range. That's too high for someone knocking down mid-range jumpers at a sub-45 percent clip. He is draining a career-high 50 percent of his pull-up jumpers inside the arc (48-of-96) and shooting 68.3 percent on paint touches (28-of-41), but his decision-making isn't nearly diverse enough to guarantee him any sort of on-ball volume.

Among 275 players to finish at least 50 drives this season, only three pass the ball less frequently. Space won't be much easier to come by inside L.A.'s half-court offense, and simply zeroing out his on-ball volume could throw him out of rhythm; it's not clear how effective he'll be strictly as a play-finisher.

Whether Hachimura can sponge up higher-stakes defensive minutes remains to be seen, as well. The Wizards insulated him against taking on premier assignments and responsibilities. He has flashed the ability to close out hard on shooters and erase possessions in passing lanes, but he's otherwise low activity. The Lakers can't expect him to come in and be their go-to wing defender during crunch time.

None of this is damning. L.A. isn't giving up centerpiece assets to land Hachimura. Nunn is on an expiring contract and been up-and-down (mostly down) all season, and the Lakers have guards to spare. That Chicago second-rounder could fall in the 30s, but L.A. still has its own second this year and can always buy another one on draft night.

Coughing up two distant seconds is a little tougher to stomach. The "You can always buy more!" stance loses luster when the drafts are so far away. Teams aren't selling seconds that far in advance; those are picks you bag in the moment. Unloading 2028 and 2029 selections could hamstring the Lakers' capacity to sweeten other deals in seasons to come.

Jake Fischer @JakeLFischer

As of Friday, the Lakers offered Kendrick Nunn and two second-round picks to Washington for Rui Hachimura, sources said. Wizards were holding out for first-round value for their former lottery selection. A third second-rounder gets it done on Monday.

That's a relatively small, if reasonable, price to pay when you're invested in Hachimura beyond this year. The Lakers, despite what Woj reports, are not. Hachimura's restricted free-agent hold will check in around $18.8 million, which represents more than half of L.A.'s projected cap space. He should come muuuuch cheaper than that number, but the Lakers aren't just going to punt on cap space altogether to retain someone who's still very much an unknown.

Maybe L.A.'s purported intent to bankroll Hachimura's next season says something about its willingness to take on longer-term money in other trades. Cap space won't be a priority if it nets another impact player who's on the books through next season. And for what it's worth, the Lakers did add to their tax bill as part of this trade, offering the faintest suggestion that they maybe, possibly, potentially aren't pinching pennies.

This is all to say: The Lakers shouldn't be done. This cannot be The Move of the season. They need to do more—to figure out how to acquire a bigger, more bankable difference-maker. But we can't grade this move in tandem of what hasn't been done. Not yet. The Lakers still have a few weeks to wheel and deal.

In the meantime, their flier on Hachimura is eminently reasonable, if not ever so slightly encouraging.

Wizards Grade: C-

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: From left, Wizards President and General Manager Tommy Sheppard, Wizards Guard Bradley Beal and Wizards Head Coach Wes Unseld Jr. are seen during a press conference at Capitol One Arena in Washington, DC, on July 08, 2022. (Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

This move does...absolutely nothing to clarify the direction in which the Wizards are headed. That doesn't make it malpractice. Or a complete whiff. It just isn't telltale.

Plenty of fans will think the Wizards are getting hosed. This franchise has, for the most part, flat-out sucked at drafting. A smattering of seconds for the No. 9 pick in 2019 is nothing if not uninspiring.

Harsh realities must still be taken into account. Hachimura wasn't bagging a first-round pick on his own—not with a contract decision on the horizon and so much of his game and fit unsettled. And regardless of what you think about general manager Tommy Sheppard and the rest of the organization, reading into "reports" like this is objectively dumb:

Sam Amico @AmicoHoops

Rival scout to Hoops Wire: "Why do you rush to make that trade if you're the Wizards? I know for a fact they can do better than (what the Lakers are offering) for Hachimura."

Front offices, believe it or not, are not in the business of deliberately or knowingly accepting crappy offers to move players they want. It's one thing to say the Wizards should have just kept Hachimura. It's another to claim they didn't adequately canvas the league or actively passed on better returns without providing any context or support whatsoever.

To that end, when you look at the surface value of this trade, the Wizards should have just kept Hachimura. Moving him doesn't suddenly vault them any deeper into the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, and his offensive skill set is worth further exploration if you're at all concerned about the bigger picture.

Using Hachimura's pending restricted free agency—and reported unhappiness about not receiving an extension, per Woj—to imply urgency doesn't fly here. The Wizards would've had the right to match any offer he receives, and if for some reason he left for nothing, they would've missed out on nothing more than a handful of second-rounders, the majority of which they probably won't keep anyway.

This is a move you make if you're just out on Hachimura. The Wizards might be at that point. And that's not an egregious place to be.

Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA

It's hard to judge young players in losing situations with star teammates who don't elevate anyone. But there have been enough flashes over the years to remain intrigued by Rui Hachimura's potential so I look forward to seeing how he performs with the Lakers next to LeBron James. <a href="https://t.co/Y9LNP3Ym1B">https://t.co/Y9LNP3Ym1B</a>

Kyle Kuzma (player option) is about to hit free agency, and Deni Avdija will be extension-eligible this summer. Washington was never going to foot the bill for both of them and Hachimura. Especially not with Kristaps Porziņģis (player option) potentially hitting the open market.

Framed that way, the Wizards did just fine to scoop up some seconds and increase their wiggle room under the tax this season. Nunn doesn't profile as a long-term piece, but his on-ball jet fuel and unpredictability might add much-needed change-of-pace to Washington's offense.

Mostly, the Wizards' side of this deal is TBD. What does Hachimura become in L.A.? And what does Washington do next? Is this a long-term cost-cutting dump? Are the Wizards contemplating more seller-type moves? In lieu of having a first-rounder to deal, are they loading up on second-rounders to glitz up attempts at buying? So much about this move will play out in the weeks—and, in Rui's case—months to come.

Immediately, though, it exists in an unspectacular-not-damning vacuum.

Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass and accurate entering Monday's games. Salary information via Spotrac.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and subscribe to the Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes.