9.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game are by no means spectacular. Those figures are nowhere near jump-off-the-page territory. However, Rui Hachimura showcased loads of potential after the Los Angeles Lakers acquired him from the Wizards Wizards in January. While the 25-year-old provided a solid secondary scoring dynamic in the regular season, the postseason was where he earned his offseason raise.
Hachimura’s coming out party was on full display right from the get-go during the first round of the NBA Playoffs. It is safe to assume that his future in LA was secured after his offensive outburst in Game 1 of that series. Throughout the duration of the series, he was a constant source of energy on both ends and was a major reason why the Lake Show made quick work of the Memphis Grizzlies. The second round against the Warriors yielded similar glimpses of Hachimura’s potential.
And while the Western Conference Finals may not have gone according to plan for the team as a whole, Hachimura elevated his game even further against the Denver Nuggets. On offense, he was a steady source of buckets en route to his highest scoring average of any of the three series at 15.3 points per game. While never quite fitting the mold of an elite-level defender, it was exactly this mold of play that bolstered his name to a new peak. In particular, his ability to contain arguably the greatest basketball player in the world currently was a pleasant surprise for the Lakers organization.
So, the Lakers organization pleasantly surprised Hachimura to the tune of 3 years and $51 million. It was a worthy payout for a player that could very easily become a cornerstone player looking ahead to the future. More specifically in terms of the future, he could become a cornerstone player looking ahead to the post-LeBron era.
If LeBron’s desire to play alongside Bronny (prayers up for Bronny) rings true, they will need a versatile forward to (attempt to) fill that void. Hachimura should currently be the favorite to win that race, although sky-high expectations will undoubtedly accompany that victory.
Rui Hachimura can prove a lot to the Lakers during this upcoming season.
Things could certainly change during training camp and the preseason but do not be surprised if/when Hachimura begins the season as the 6th/7th man coming off the bench for the Lakers. That is not to say that the organization is not higher on him than whoever it is that starts over him, it is simply a matter of putting the right players together at the right times in a game within a rotation. Heading into training camp, there should be no reason for Darvin Ham to go another direction than the one that led the team to the WCF last season.
D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis was a largely successful 5-man unit after the trade deadline last year. To begin games, these 5 would seem to be the favorites to start based on continuity and chemistry. With that in mind, Hachimura should sit comfortably ahead of Vando and D’Lo as it pertains to closing games next to LeBron-AD-Reaves this season.
Rui has shown a lot of potential as a scorer through four full seasons. After coming over to the Lakers, he showed glimpses of game that extends much further than scoring the ball. The Lakers rewarded him for his contributions as a secondary scorer and his efforts to improve as a defender. We know that he can score the ball effectively in the mid-range and paint area, but if he can make strides as a consistent shooter then he can really take a leap.
There is a sneaky abundance of depth in the frontcourt, and Rui will have to earn every minute of playing time that comes his way this season. Regardless of his annual salary, poor performance outweighs dollar signs and you can speak with Duncan Robinson on that matter if you would like to investigate. S
omething in the ballpark of 28-30 minutes per game should be reasonable for Hachimura looking ahead to this season (granted he performs well on a consistent basis). Expect Rui’s rebounding numbers to remain roughly the same, but his energy on defense to take a clear jump.
Furthermore, something in the range of 12-15 points per game should be rational for him this year. LeBron-AD should supply 50 points per game. D’Lo-Reaves should pump in another 30 per night. Hachimura should be the go-to scorer off the bench and should have ample opportunities to put the ball in the hole.
Time will tell if he can live up to the expectations that his new contract entails. But if he can continue to ride the wave of confidence that he was on in the 2023 postseason, fans should not be worried about what is to come of LeBron’s career with the Lakers after the 2023-2024 season.