Rui Hachimura Declares for 2019 NBA Draft, Forgoes Senior Year at Gonzaga

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2019

Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura (21) yells after dunking against Saint Mary's during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Moraga, Calif., Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Gonzaga Bulldogs junior forward Rui Hachimura declared for the 2019 NBA draft Monday, according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium:  

Hachimura has shown significant improvement in all three seasons. After playing sparingly as a freshman, he averaged 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds as a sophomore.

But he took his biggest leap this year, leading Gonzaga with 19.7 points per game while adding 6.5 rebounds per contest. He also shot 59.1 percent from the field.

There's little question that Hachimura can score points, with the ability to get buckets in the midrange or near the basket. But in the NBA, there are some question marks about how much his current weaknesses could impact his game.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman, for instance, noted, "Concerns about his fit are worth considering, being that he isn't a plus three-point shooter, passer or defender."

And one college coach told Sam Vecenie of The Athletic: "He's really strong, fast, good. But unless he can consistently stick the three and the jump shot, at the next level they're all just like him. So they'll gap him, and when he drives they'll body him and he won't get to the rim."

All three coaches that Vecenie spoke to had concerns about Hachimura's defense. But it's obvious Hachimura has serious upside.

"I've just heard the Kawhi [Leonard] comparison here recently. I think at this point, they are very similar," one coach said. "Rui may shoot it a little better at this stage of his career. He's extremely physical. He can play inside-out."

He added: "Defensively, I don't think he's that interested as Kawhi was. But I think his offense is further along."

It's a major comparison, and one Hachimura may never live up to. Leonard is a bonafide superstar, after all. But Hachimura has serious upside, and he should be a lottery pick this year. And if he can clean up some of his weaknesses, he could be an All-Star at the next level.

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