Staggering stat shows Lakers shot themselves in the foot this year

The Lakers should have started Rui Hachimura whenever he was healthy this season.
Los Angeles Lakers, Darvin Ham
Los Angeles Lakers, Darvin Ham / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are battling to make the playoffs with just over one week left in the regular season. Not where a team who reached the conference finals in 2023 is expected to be. LeBron James isn’t worrying about playoff seeding, but he should be. If the Lakers want to make a postseason run, they will need to stay hot and get some luck along the way.

Head coach Darvin Ham has made some shocking decisions this season, including bringing Rui Hachimura off the bench to begin the year. The 6’8 forward arrived in LA in a Jan. 2023 trade and had a key scoring role on the Lakers' run to conference finals. They needed more Hachimura this season, but coach Ham was slow to adjust.

The 6’8 forward is leaving zero doubt with his recent play. He rates among the elite players in a surprising stat and is performing his best when the games matter most. Hachimura has played a key role in LA's recent hot play and shows no signs of slowing down.

Lakers should have started Rui Hachimura all season

He finally became a starter on Feb. 3 and has not relinquished it. Over that 27-game stretch, Hachimura averages 15.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 31.0 minutes per game. He is shooting 59.4 percent from the field and 45.0 percent on his 3-point attempts. His efficiency has been unbelievable since joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the starting five.

Hachimura leads the NBA by scoring 1.31 points per possession since March 1, according to Synergy. King James is tenth during that stretch with 1.14 points per possession. Nobody expected Hachimura to top this category. He has been a streaky 3-point shooter in his career, but it seems like everything is coming together as a starter on the Lakers.

The team has gone 19-8 since inserting Hachimura into the starting five. That is a 70.3 winning percentage, which would top the Western Conference over the full season. Add this to the growing list of blunders by head coach Darvin Ham this season.

Coach Ham wanted the 6’8 forward doing the little things on both ends of the floor before inserting him into the starting five. Three early-season injuries did not help, but Hachimura has finally worked his way into a larger role.

The Lakers are thriving down the stretch. They have won three straight and eight of their last nine. Nobody wants to face LeBron and AD in the playoffs, but even less with Hachimura standing out in his role and D’Angelo Russell making shots.

Can the Los Angeles Lakers escape the Play-In Tournament and make a second straight deep playoff run? They need Rui Hachimura to maintain his efficiency and play a key role. He averaged 24.3 minutes per game during the 2023 postseason. The Lakers need 30-plus this year, especially if Jarred Vanderbilt remains out. Hachimura’s size, defense, and shot-making will be massive. He has earned the trust of coach Ham and now must shine in the playoffs.