Rui Hachimura has seemingly made a jump over the last several weeks. There’s been a lot of conversation about him taking on the challenge and wanting to guard 1 through 5. On the latest Bleav in Wizards podcast, Larry Hughes and I spent a good deal of time breaking down Hachimura’s development and how he’s finally making better use of his frame and physical gifts.
His proponents compared him to Kawhi Leonard which always felt unfair to me. And his detractors labeled him as a “tweener” which also felt unfair to me. For a while I described his ceiling as bigger, less athletic Caron Butler which didn’t feel right either. He has a unique collection of skills that enables him to be a versatile weapon for the Wizards. However, his assortment of abilities also makes him a tough player to find an ideal NBA comparison.
Accordingly, it seemed like a more interesting exercise to identify aspects of his game that bring other players to mind. And more specifically, what former Wizards does he exhibit shades of? These are obviously not perfect comparisons but these are the guys who come to my mind when I see him do certain things on the court. Your list may obviously be different and I would love to hear who he reminds you of in the comments!
Grab-and-go: Chris Webber
Whether you look at him as a smaller power forward or a bigger wing, Hachimura is on a short list of forwards that don’t scare me when they grab the rebound and decide to push the ball in transition themselves. Hachimura isn’t as big or as athletic as Chris Webber but Hachimura is probably the most competent ball-handler in transition that Wizards have had since Webber.
Webber was electric with the ball, whether it was making a behind-the-back pass or dribbling behind his back to get past a defender. Hachimura has more tunnel-vision and hasn’t displayed much creativity but I still like it when he rebounds the ball and takes off. Being able to create for his teammates would help him take his game to the next level.
Mid-range shooting: Juwan Howard
I know it’s not cool to shoot mid-range jumpers anymore but I still believe that it’s a good thing to mix in if you have personnel with the skills to do it. I think Hachimura’s shot profile has been better this season and will continue to improve as his confidence in his three-point shot grows.
But his bread and butter will also be that sweet mid-range jump-shot. The form is different (Howard had that high release) but I can’t help but flashback to being 10-years-old and seeing Juwan Howard drill 15-footers from all over the court.
Finishing around the rim: Antawn Jamison
Antawn Jamison is still one of the most creative below-the-rim finishers I’ve ever seen. He was a master of scoops, up-and-unders, floaters, and finger-rolls. However, there were certain times where I wish he would have gone up stronger and just tried to dunk on someone. Similarly, I often find myself wishing that Hachimura would try to put opponents on posters.
Hachimura doesn’t have the same advanced arsenal as Jamison but he does finish well with both hands and that serves him pretty well. He has also been much better this year about using the rim to shield the ball from shot-blockers, which Jamison was adept at. Even with those improvements, it still feels like he gets blocked a lot more often than someone with his physical gifts should.
Blend of size and quickness on defense: Dominic McGuire
I know people don’t look back super fondly on McGuire’s contributions but there was a time where he was inserted into the Wizards’ starting unit and provided a defensive spark for an otherwise bad defensive team. He had some holes in his game but he also had the length and athleticism to chase people on the wing with just enough size and physicality to hang with bigger players. His defensive rebounding also helped limit possessions.
In 2009, Mike Prada wrote up a review of Dominic McGuire’s defense for this very website and some of things he described seeing at the time are things that frequently go through my head while watching Hachimura. His defensive rebounding helped limit opponent’s opportunities so that was good. But he also had trouble fighting through screens at certain times or got caught on his heels at others. More good than bad overall.
Prada’s evaluation mostly pointed to a versatile defender that was starting to make better use of his physical gifts and whose overall presence improved the Wizards’ team defense. That’s essentially how Hughes and I summed up Hachimura’s recent defensive contributions.
“He’s getting there, no doubt,” Prada said of McGuire in his writeup. “And he’s so athletic and lengthy that he’s able to make a major difference simply by rebounding and closing out on shooters. But he’s not close yet to being Bruce Bowen or Shane Battier. It takes smarts as well as athleticism to be a great lockdown defender. McGuire has the athleticism, now he needs to develop the smarts.”
McGuire never really got there. Here’s hoping that with continued experience and lots of film study that Hachimura does.