Trade School: Rui Hachimura Edition


Welcome back to trade grades, where I grade trades all around the NBA. Since my previous article was published, the NBA trade season began on January 15, as it does every year. The trade market may still be in a deadlock, but we have our first big trade of the year!

On January 23, 2023, the Washington Wizards traded Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kendrick Nunn, the Chicago Bulls’ 2023 second round pick, a 2028 second round pick, and the Lakers’ 2029 second round pick. I’m going to start off with grading the Washington Wizards because I would rather end the article on an optimistic note and Washington would not allow me to do that.

Trades like this are the reason the Wizards’ peak will always be an early exit from the playoffs. Throughout his career, Rui Hachimura has been a 13 points per game scorer who plays kind of like a diet version of Kyle Kuzma, who the Wizards also have on their roster right now. One could take this as a vote of confidence towards Kyle’s recent performance as a borderline all-star, giving him more minutes without Hachimura on the team, plus the Wizards have players like Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert on the team that play extremely similarly to Rui.

There is just one problem with that. Kyle Kuzma wants a new contract worth at least twnety million, if not more. This is not just a rumor, for Kyle Kuzma himself has expressed interest in declining his 2023-24 player option so that he can get more money. If he does this, the Wizards lose Kuzma and Hachimura for nothing.

However, it may not be for nothing I guess, for there is still Kendrick Nunn. He was a promising rookie for the Miami Heat in 2019, averaging around 15 points per game in his first two seasons, but a knee injury took him out of the entire 2021-22 season, and since coming back to play with the Lakers, he has looked terrible, averaging 6 points on 6 shots per game. But who knows, through two games, he is averaging 12 points a game, so maybe a change of scenery was exactly what he needed.

The biggest problem for Washington is the 2nd round picks.  Generally, if you get anything better than a bench player from the second round, you got lucky or your team is just really great at drafting. Chicago’s 2023 second rounder is currently projected to be the 39th pick if the season ended today, so maybe the team will get some value out of it. My main issue is with the 2028 and 2029 second rounder.

To put it into perspective, the top prospect of the 2028 draft class, Erick Dampier Jr., is currently 13-years-old. The Wizards traded Rui for a 12- and 13-year-old. These kids most likely won’t share the team with anybody that is currently on the roster until at least the 2028 season. I’m going to give the Washington Wizards a D+ for having no sense of urgency to improve its currently middling roster, instead of opting to improve the roster five to six years in the future.

The Lakers are strange. They have an aging star in LeBron James, a top 25+ player in Anthony Davis, and a mediocre but currently improving third option in Russell Westbrook.  Who do you put around these guys? The team needs players who shoot threes. Arguably, the only Laker that can consistently hit his shots from long-range is Austin Reaves, the second year player currently trying to establish himself as the diet version of J.J. Barea.  Reeves is only making 36% of his three-pointers this year so far!

Another problem for the Lakers is how many guards they had. Before the trade, the Lakers had Russ, Patrick Beverley, Dennis Schröder, Lonnie Walker IV, Max Christie, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves, and Scottie Pippen Jr. That’s 8 guards for a max 15 roster spots!

This trade at least fixed some issues. Before the trade, the only true power-forward on the roster, besides LeBron, was Wenyan Gabriel. Now the Lakers have someone to back up or compliment LeBron. Rui might not be the best three point shooter in the world, but I think most Lakers fans would rather see him take three point shots instead of watching Troy Brown Jr. throw up some absolute gutter balls.

Another good thing is how Rui is only 24-years-old. He could be considered a long-term piece, whereas parts of the roster, particularly LeBron and Russ, aren’t very long-term players. Overall, the Lakers got better through this trade, but if they have any hopes of making the playoffs, they need to make bigger moves than this. For that reason, I’m giving the Lakers a B-.

We have one more week folks. The NBA trade deadline is on Thursday, February 19, 2023.  Expect to see much more trade rumors pretty soon. I have been hearing conversations about a trade with the Denver Nuggets trading Bones Hyland for a first round pick. There are rumors that the Toronto Raptors or the Chicago Bulls could be breaking down their rosters and rebuilding this year. The Dallas Mavericks reportedly will trade anyone to get a star around Luka Dončić. No matter what happens, you can guarantee that I’m going to grade it. See you in two weeks.