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Wizards 2019-2020 Season Preview: What can we expect from Rui Hachimura?

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Discussing the Wizards’ 2019 lottery pick based off of what we’ve seen thus far.

Rui Hachimura poses during the Washington Wizards 2019 Media Day photoshoot.
Photo by Desmond Hester via Bullets Forever

The story of Rui Hachimura’s entrance into the NBA has been a fascinating one. From the NBA draft all the way through to the final game of the Wizards preseason and everything in between, Hachimura has attracted an incredible amount of attention from both National and International media, and for good reason.

The “Japanese Jumpman” enters the league after an impressive college career, possessing raw, fundamental skills and knowledge so early in his basketball career. Rui’s proven talent and undeniable work ethic could set him up as a key building block to the revamped Wizards roster that GM Tommy Sheppard and head coach Scott Brooks are aiming to build in DC.

As we all impatiently wait for the start of the 2019-2020 NBA season, here are some items to watch out for with Hachimura during his rookie campaign:

Strengths

Hachimura provides an instant presence of hustle and aggression to the team - something that the Wiz have lacked in recent years.

He shows instances where he can be a great rebounder on both sides of the floor, whether he is navigating defensive rebounds and advancing the ball in transition as a point forward, or fighting for offensive boards to generate second chance buckets, this is a critical factor to the team’s success considering that the Wiz were the 4th worst team in the league last season in overall rebounds.

Rui’s developed frame and polished offensive skill set allows him to take advantage of numerous mismatch situations. He excels in using his body to create space for mid-range shooting, attacking the basket, and banging in the paint.

He is also a quick decision maker when given the ball in one on one situations, which can set him up as a mismatch headache for defenders. He possesses a quick first step, and when paired with crafty triple threat technique, this allows him to blow by bigger defenders when drawn out of the paint. When paired against smaller defenders, he can either bully them into the paint, or simply shoot over top of them with his trusty mid-range shot.

Speaking of his mid-range shot, I am not sure if I’ve seen a player come out of the draft with a mid-range as polished as his in recent years. The mid-range is a rare commodity in today’s game, but when looking at elite players such as Kawhi Leonard (who Rui’s play style is often compared to), a lethal shot from 15-ish feet outside the basket that defenders are forced to respect can open up a wide variety of different ways to break down a defender on and off the dribble, which as a result opens up the entire floor.

Room For Improvement

Three-point shooting was not a focal point in Hachimura’s game in college. Although he shot an impressive 41% from three in his final year at Gonzaga, he only shot 76 total threes in 102 games across his college career—not a significant serving size.

Based off of what we have seen thus far, this is likely to change.

In this year’s pre-season, the Wiz shot 41 threes per 100 possessions against NBA opponents (2nd most in the league during the 2019 pre-season). Out of the three games he played against NBA opponents (Knicks, Bucks, Sixers), Rui shot 4-7 from beyond the arc. We should not be surprised if Rui’s three point attempts per game continue to increase throughout the season as he gets comfortable with the pace of the NBA, his role on the team, and continues to work on his shot.

Hit or miss, he shoots the ball with confidence, which is important in shot development. Although he shows a tendency to release the ball a bit late and could use a little more power from the legs, both of those mechanics can easily be corrected over time.

Considering that Hachimura is a legit threat with his mid-range shot and also attacking the paint and finishing at the rim, developing a reliable three-point shot for pick & pop or catch and shoot situations can set Hachimura up for instant success on this roster, and should be a focal point for development in his rookie season.

Defensively, Rui shows instances where he can be a great defender.

He also shows many instances where his defensive ability can be a liability if not corrected.

Rui has the tendency to freeze up against developing pick and roll plays, can oftentimes be beaten off of the dribble fairly easily, bites on fakes, and lacks overall awareness and feel for the game on the defensive end. Simply put, when defending off-ball, he does not see the floor well nor does he process the play unfolding in front of him in enough time to react accordingly.

With all of that being said, Hachimura is young, seems to be a fast learner, and has plenty of time to continue to develop his game on the defensive end. Improved discipline, anticipation, and quick, smart decision making paired with his 6’8, 235 pound frame, 7’1 wingspan and sneaky athleticism can help Hachimura develop into an above average (dare I say, elite) defender in the league down the road.

Rui Hachimura is arguably the most intriguing prospect that the Wizards have drafted since Bradley Beal in 2012. His teammates and coaching staff rave about his work ethic, skill and dedication to improve each day. Based off of what we’ve seen thus far on the court along with the international media attention, Hachimura brings something new and unique to be excited about with Wizards basketball.