The Washington Wizards selected Rui Hachimura with the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. At the time, many thought that then-interim General Manager Tommy Sheppard went the safe route in taking Hachimura over potential high-risk high-reward guys like Cam Reddish or Sekou Doumbouya.
We won’t know for some years whether this was the right decision or not, but after their respective rookie seasons, the Wizards should be pleased with Hachimura.
Hachimura was the third best scorer for the Wizards as he chipped in for 13.5 points per night on a solid 46.6% shooting. The rookie out of Gonzaga was active on both the offensive and defensive glass — 6.1 rebounds per game, best among all rookies.
He was efficient in the painted area and midrange where he knocked down 64% and 40% of his shots respectively. The further Hachimura got from the basket, the steeper the decline.
It wasn’t his highest scoring output of the season, but Hachimura had arguably the best game of the season just four games into his young career when the Wizards took on the Houston Rockets at home.
Hachimura had it going from the midrange, attacked the hole, and knocked down all three of his three-point attempts en route to 23 points on 9-15 shooting. Hachimura started the night matched up against the physical P.J. Tucker but held his own in a 159-158 up-and-down affair.
One thing is clear with Hachimura: he likes doing his damage around the hole and in the midrange. When he catches the ball on the wing, he typically takes one or two dribbles towards the elbow and pulls up for a midrange shot. He was effective from that distance and at both elbows hitting 45.6% from 15-19 feet.
As the season went on, Hachimura tried to get to the hole and finish in the painted area more frequently. He had plenty of opportunities at both the small forward and power forward positions and even some center when the Wizards closed games with a small-ball lineup. Hachimura was effective close to the basket, hitting 61% from five feet or closer.
Lastly, going into the NBA restart, many thought that Hachimura was going to be the Wizards’ go-to scorer. That didn’t quite come to fruition, but he looked more assertive in his decision making and showed improved handle in the bubble. Hopefully that decisiveness and better ball handling will carry over into next season.
Hachimura steadily improved as his rookie campaign went on, but there were bumps in the road. It takes a lot of adjustment both to the speed of the game and from a physicality standpoint going from college to the pros and Hachimura found that out the hard way —especially on the defensive end. At times, he struggled going up against more physical players and he wasn’t always sure of his defensive rotations. Again, nothing too alarming, more of just the learning curve of a rookie getting acclimated to the professional game.
We knew Hachimura’s shot was smooth in the midrange, but the biggest question mark for him was could he knock down three-pointers consistently? He shot just 28.7% from three-point range and still has work to do on his long range shot. Just like when he’s pulling up in the midrange, Hachimura often shoots his three-pointers on a line drive with little to no arc — not the best form when shooting from distance.
On top of that, it’s apparent he still isn’t comfortable letting it fly from three. More often than not, Rui hesitates prior shooting and it seems he’s thinking too much. In addition, his form changes and he doesn’t have as much elevation on his three-point attempts.
No reason to panic as again, he was just a rookie. But if Hachimura’s game is going to flourish, he needs to develop a more consistent three-point shot.
Future with the Wizards
Hachimura is here to stay in Washington. While his selection may have seemed anti-climatic on draft day, he turned out to be a rock solid pick for the Wizards. With Washington in the midst of an on-the-fly rebuild and trying to keep good young talent on inexpensive contracts, all signs point to him being in a Wizards uniform for a long time.