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June 26 Mailbag Answers Part 2: Rui Hachimura as a late bloomer and who he’ll be like

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Here are the remaining questions we had from Part 1 of our mailbag from Wednesday.

2019 NBA Draft
Rui Hachimura hasn’t played basketball as long as some other players. Could he be a late bloomer?
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Hi all,

Here is the second part of our mailbag, where our writers wrote fuller answers to some of your questions. I wasn’t able to get everything in on Wednesday and Thursday was a big news day, so here are the answers. Thanks!

— Albert

Daniel (email): I want to believe Rui Hachimura will grow into a complete NBA player, but there are a lot of draft analysts who insist that his lack of “feel” for the game will prevent him from ever being an effective defender or passer in the league.

Is there precedent of a player in Rui’s situation (over age 20, great scorer, needs to get better at knowing when to pass and to play help defense) improving once they’re in the NBA? Or is the hope that he’s one of a kind, and Tommy Sheppard is right that he’s a uniquely “late bloomer”?

Ben Mehic: Here’s my full answer to elaborate from last Wednesday.

If a prospect’s major flaw is something nebulous like “feel,” then you take it and run. Rui apparently didn’t start playing basketball until he was in high school, so of course his “feel” won’t be as polished as someone who’s been playing longer. But you know what’s kind of crazy? He just started playing basketball a few years ago, yet he’s good enough to be a lottery pick in the NBA.

And for the second part of your question -- there’s plenty of precedent. Every player who has gotten better throughout the course of their career has set a precedent, right? One could argue that John Wall -- hear me out -- is precedent.

Wall always had great court vision, but he was a turnover machine. He needed to learn how to play at a more efficient pace, and when he committed himself defensively, he was one of the best in the league on that end of the floor too. For another comparison, look no further than Bradley Beal.

When he first came into the league, Beal was nothing but a shooter. He could barely dribble -- had no confidence, was constantly wobbly-legged. Now Beal’s an all-around offensive stud. He can pass, score off the dribble and he’s a knock-down shooter. If he didn’t exert himself completely on offense, he’d be a pretty damn good defender too.

I don’t think being a late-bloomer is all that unique nowadays. Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t start playing basketball until they were teens, either. It’s not how long you have been playing, it’s how quickly you pick things up. By all accounts, Rui is determined. The Wizards -- and other teams -- lauded his work-ethic.

If there’s anything we should be concerned about, I don’t think it’s Rui’s “feel” or how long he’s played. He became an NBA lottery pick seemingly overnight. That’s a sign of someone who understands the level of commitment it takes to succeed at a high level.

Kevin Broom: Not to make this into a big debate, but...I don’t see the NCAA-to-NBA transition of either Wall or Beal having much of anything to teach about Hachimura’s.

Both guys were young and had been playing basically their whole lives. If Wall IS precedent, that could be concerning. What were his weaknesses in college: shooting, turnovers, lapses in defensive concentration. What have been his flaws into the NBA? Shooting, turnovers, lapses in defensive concentration. He improved overall, but the problem areas in college persisted throughout his career.

Beal is the more interesting comp, but I still don’t see it. Beal’s college shooting percentages were on the low side for a guy reputed to be a great shooter. As a 6-5 guard, he rebounded almost as much as Hachimura (difference was 0.7 rebounds per 40 minutes), and Beal’s steal and block numbers were good for a guard. (Beal and Hachimura both were at 1.0 blocks per 40 entering the draft.)

The big thing Beal improved upon in the NBA was his passing and playmaking, but he had already exhibited a good all-around floor game while at Florida. And he improved his defense, but he was waaaaaaaaaay ahead of Hachimura defensively when he entered the draft.

GreatWallofWizards(Comments): Which NBA player will Rui Hachimura be like?

Marcus Atkinson, Sr.: I think there is too much focus on comps for these NBA players. I mean you have some sites who compared Kawhi Leonard to Gerald Wallace when he was drafted. I think you can certainly make an analysis of what skills players have, but you won’t know how those skills will pan out until you see the situation they are placed in and what role they will play.

An example of a player that comes to mind for me is Kevon Looney, who was projected as a stretch 4 type. With that Warriors his role does not comprise of playing outside the paint much. Rui’s comp is going to depend on what the Wizards want from him. Is he going to be a 3 or a 4? Are they going to post him up more or get him to expand his shooting range?

These are just some things that will factor into his projection. That’s a long way of saying we’ll see and honestly I think next week’s Summer League will help us shed some light into what he will be asked to do and what he is actually capable of.

Albert: Earlier this week, Bryan Oringher wrote and created a video breakdown saying that Hachimura’s ceiling could be Antetokounmpo. While I certainly understand why many readers may think this is a hot take, Antetokounmpo was a late bloomer as well. And also, few predicted he would become the NBA MVP at some point. I’d be happy to just see him become a regular rotation piece or even a starter long-term.