The first action of trade season goes down and thirsty Lakers fans get a little juice — Los Angeles trades for solid wing depth in a player it can re-sign this offseason. All it cost was a guy on the edge of the rotation and some second-round picks. On the other side, the Wizards… do something.
Let’s break down the winners and losers from the first trade of 2023. We’ll start by reminding everyone of the trade itself:
Lakers receive: Rui Hachimura
Wizards receive: Kendrick Nunn, the Bulls’ 2023 second-round pick, the lesser of the Lakers’ or Wizards’ 2028 second-round pick, and the 2029 Lakers’ second-round pick.
Winner: Lakers front office
This is what Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office wanted: A trade that shows they are working and making the team better — if even marginally — while not giving away the first-round pick assets they are saving for a potential home run swing this summer.
This trade does not bridge the chasm between the Lakers and contending, but that silver bullet trade is not out there to make. This is a solid, safe play, one the Laker front office can tout to fans and say, “look, we’re trying” (and say the same to any superstars potentially unhappy with the roster construction).
Plus, Hachimura is a good fit with the Lakers. This trade makes the Lakers better, starting with the fact he brings shooting to the table. Hachimura has improved as a catch-and-shoot 3-point guy in his NBA career, and when playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis he should get clean catch-and-shoot looks. (Of course, he will get most of his minutes off the bench next to Russell Westbrook — they were teammates in Washington and have a connection.)
Rui Hachimura has made 39.3% of his catch-and-shoot 3s since his 2nd year. By season:
Streaky on a low volume of 2.6 per game (359 total shots), per @SecondSpectrum. But he’s solid and should get plenty of open looks with the Lakers.
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 23, 2023
Hachimura needs to stick to that 3-ball or getting to the rim — he takes a third of his shots from the midrange (between 10 feet and the arc) and while he has improved on them, those are still not good shots for him. He needs to get out and run with Westbrook, he’s a good fit with the Lakers on the break.
Hachimura is solid. Is he good? He shows flashes of it but is not consistently there yet. Do the Lakers want to pay him like he’s good? Not necessarily. A deal could get done early because Hachimura has an $18.8 million cap hold heading into free agency and whatever he signs for will be far less than that (likely more like the mid-level exception range of $10 million).
Winner: Rui Hachimura
“I just want to be somewhere that wants me as a basketball player, and I want to be somewhere that likes my game,” Hachimura said, and when asked if that place is Washington, he responded,” I don’t know. We’ve got to find out.”
It’s not. Hachimura got what he wanted in that he’s out, and he’s on a team that’s going to give him plenty of minutes, a franchise with a much brighter spotlight, he gets to play next to LeBron James, and he’s with a team that wants to reach a new contract deal with him this offseason. That’s about as much as Hachimura could have asked for.
Loser (kind of): Washington Wizards
Loser is relative here, this is like a C- grade for the Wizards.
It’s not a win, however. They used a high draft pick (No. 9) to select Hachimura, spent years developing him, and had hoped to get a first-round pick in return for him. They instead got three seconds, which maybe they turn into a good player but it’s not a home run. Same with Nunn, who if he can return to his Miami form could be a helpful player but he hasn’t looked anything like that guy consistently in Los Angeles.
This also doesn’t answer the question, what is the long-term strategy in Washington? That remains murky.
Winner: Kyle Kuzma
Kuzma is getting paid this summer.
He is having a breakout season – 21.8 points and 7.6 rebounds a game — as he heads into free agency.
The Wizards have been shooting down teams calling about a Kuzma trade, according to Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports, and the Hachimura trade signals they are serious about re-signing him this offseason. This frees up a little more cap room to spend on Kuzma come July (he’s not going to sign an extension with the team, the max they can offer is four years, $69.9 million, he will get an offer north of $100 million as a free agent).
Does Kuzma want to stay in Washington? While he has responded to trade rumors saying all the right things about loving his time with the Wizards and his teammates, the rumors continue to swirl around the league that he is eyeing bigger markets and brighter lights. The Wizards may need to overpay to keep him.
Washington has to pay Kuzma plus Deni Avdija will be extension-eligible this summer. The Wizards are going to have to open up the checkbook.