As the Wizards prepare for free agency, their plans need to account for how their newest players may contribute and what’s best for their long-term development. What can the team reasonably expect from Rui Hachimura and Admiral Schofield next season and what are their prospects for long-term development?
Let’s find out.
What can the Wizards expect from Rui Hachimura?
The range of opinions on Wizards first round selection Hachimura is somewhat amusing. Credulity-straining comparisons include Kawhi Leonard (no), Giannis Antetokounmpo (just ... no) and Paul Millsap.
Beyond that are a mishmash of styles and NBA proficiency such as Jabari Parker, Wilson Chandler, Gordon Hayward, Mike Scott ... Onto the heap, let’s throw statistical comps from Ye Olde Draft Analyzer: Marcus Morris, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
A big reason the comparisons are so diverse is that Hachimura is a draft Rorschach test. He has an NBA-ready body — length, agility, leaping ability all more or less check the right boxes. His statistical production is there ... sort of ... and he flashes enough ability for eye test scouting to like him ... or not. Different scouts pick up on different things and the net result is a range of opinions that stretch from future star to second round value.
Physically, he has solid NBA power forward size and athleticism. His agility scores suggest he won’t be capable of playing significant minutes at small forward. He seems to have the strength and physicality to play center in small-ball sets.
At Gonzaga, he scored efficiently, got to the free throw line and rebounded decently. He wasn’t much of a passer, but he also did a decent job avoiding turnovers.
The pre-draft consensus was that he’s a poor defender, but the play type tracking data indicates he did a solid job as an on-ball defender in the paint. Like most NBA prospects, he has weaknesses on the defensive end. In Hachimura’s case, there’s cause for concern when he’s matched in isolation (especially against quality ballhandlers), closeouts on shooters and picking up cutters.
He wasn’t much of a rim protector — just 1.0 blocks per 40 minutes, a paltry number for a player of his size and athleticism. Gripes about his lack of feel for the game are fair. His ball handling isn’t NBA ready.
All that said, Hachimura was an elite scorer in college who was efficient in an array of offensive sets, even with a low volume from three point range and got to the free throw line at an above-average rate. Scouts have fretted about a hitch in Hachimura’s jumper (and they’re right), but his accuracy is top-shelf. A lot of time and attention goes into shooting mechanics, but the “right” way to shoot the ball is the one that gets it through the hoop.
There have been plenty of successful NBA shooters with unorthodox or “wrong” mechanics. Hachimura should worry about The Hitch if it affects how quickly he can release the shot or if he starts missing.
A significant portion of Hachimura’s offense at Gonzaga came from knocking down midrange jumpers. These are the shots NBA defenses want the opposition to take. The break-even point on those shots is high, but his accuracy on two-point jumpers could be useful as the shot clock winds down.
As a rookie, Hachimura can likely find a role as a bench forward who provides a scoring boost. He seems an ideal candidate for pick-and-pop sets, although the Wizards don’t have the personnel to play off Hachimura’s screens and he needs to improve on his screen setting.
The Wizards coaching staff would also be wise to create opportunities for Hachimura to be a cutter. He exhibited good hands and excellent at-rim finishing at Gonzaga, but his ball handling doesn’t appear to be good enough for dribble drive penetration or to reliably attack closeouts.
The Wizards need to get him comfortable taking threes at a significantly higher rate than he did in college. If he’s able to be an accurate three-point shooter at a good volume (eight-plus attempts per 100 team possessions), he could have an impact similar to Ryan Anderson (pre-back injury and personal tragedy).
Early in his career, the Wizards’ coaches would be smart to simplify Hachimura’s decision-making as he develops that mystical “feel.” While YODA doesn’t forecast a high ceiling for Hachimura, he could develop into a solid starter with patience and hard work.
What can the Wizards expect from Admiral Schofield?
Second round pick Admiral Schofield instantly joins the pantheon of great NBA names. His selection is metaphysical proof Abe Pollin should have named the team Sea Dogs.
Brushing past the issue of whether Schofield should have been the choice at 42 (it should have been Bol Bol), it’s dubious whether he’ll ever be more than an end-of-bench type. He was tough and physical at Tennessee and he shot well from three-point range. But, his rebounding was so-so, he struggled to finish inside (. 505 two-point percentage) and his steal and block numbers were on the low side for a 3 & D guy. His free throw shooting — generally a better indicator of true shooting ability — was just under 70 percent.
There’s an NBA role for Schofield if he can truly become the 3 & D guy every team seeks. His ball handling is too shaky to be a lead offensive threat, but he can be effective by camping in the weakside corner and waiting for kickouts and potentially as a cutter.
Schofield will need to develop into a high-quality defender to maximize his potential. This means becoming as good a team defender as he was on-ball at Tennessee. While he’s not long by NBA standards, Schofield may be strong and tough enough to play some four in small-ball sets (similar to PJ Tucker in Houston).
Schofield’s stat comps from YODA aren’t very promising: James Bell (who didn’t play in the NBA), Jeff Taylor (one (bad) season with Charlotte), Terrence Ross (decent role player) and Lamar Patterson. Still, he’s tough and competitive, and like virtually every drafted player, could be a productive NBA player if he works hard and smart.
The selections of Hachimura and Schofield are suggestive that interim president Tommy Sheppard and the front office believe the team is closer to being competitive than most outsiders. They’ve selected mature “culture” guys who would seem to have shorter development paths to becoming NBA contributors than younger players with potentially higher upsides.