Rui Hachimura broke onto the college basketball scene at the beginning of the 2018-2019 season. At the Maui Invitational back in November, Hachimura displayed his ability to the entire nation against the country’s best basketball team, the Duke Blue Devils. He scored 20 pounds while hauling in seven rebounds to secure the upset over the then-unbeaten Duke squad in a game that was heavily televised.
This rise in notoriety propelled Hachimura to becoming a household name reaching even the most casual of college basketball fans. Possessing a superior presence down low, he was able to capture the eyes of many as an illustrious scorer around the painted area. This has brought him into heavy lottery considerations in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Weight: 230 lbs
Stats: 19.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 59% from the field and 41.7% from three off one attempt per game
Strengths: Dribble penetration, high-motor
Hachimura used his physically dominant frame to his advantage. He was able to establish both inside opportunities as well as establishing easy mismatches through switches off the pick and roll. This unlocked arguably his most intriguing asset: dribble penetration.
Hachimura uses his advanced ball-handling skills to get to the rim and slash through traffic, which sets up his multitude of scoring moves. He has quick inside spins and an underrated floater game. This, on top of his excellent mid-range game, put him in an elite tier offensively within fifteen feet of the basket.
Hachimura is relentless. Hachimura has the will and determination to reach among the big men inside to secure rebounds on both ends. This often leads to easy second-chance opportunities on offense and has lead to many fast break opportunities triggered by his ensuing defensive board. He is also a reliable lob finisher around the rim. Hachimura has the athleticism to be a strong finisher in both the half court and in transition.
There are reasons he isn’t projected to go higher.
Weaknesses: Defensive awareness, three-point volume
The defensive side of the ball is where we see the true colors of Hachimura’s long-term projection in the NBA. Too often Hachimura was seen either sagging off his man, which lead to many barely-contested threes or being lost on that end of the court. These worries may be resolved if he’s put in a coaching system that helps him better understand defensive principles.
If these troubles are to continue, there might not be much optimism for his defensive potential. Despite playing in a weaker conference than most NBA prospects, Hachimura had a block rate of 2.6%. Compare that to his teammate and current prospect Brandon Clarke, who boasts a career 8.9% block rate.
Another facet of his game that has been generally discussed is his three-point ability. Yes, Hachimura was able to knock down 41.7% of his shots from downtown, but he shot only one long ball per game. Whether it’s an unwillingness to shoot from downtown or it was as a result of his team’s offensive system, his long-range shot needs to be heavily considered heading into the evaluation process.
Will he be able to make threes in a high volume? Or, will he continue to focus his game around the mid-range area?
Pro comparison: Terrance Jones
Taking a look at the two side by side, there are a lot of similarities between their styles of play.
Hachimura was the better offensive player coming out of college. Jones was a bit lengthier and had a higher volume rate shooting the three.
But from both sides of the floor, both embody the same mindset and overall impacts on games. They play a more conventional style, which involves less passing and a heavy reliance on the mid-range and inside game. Jones and Hachimura are also seen as tweener players, with both being able to play positions three through five. Both can be used to provide an instant spark offensively from the painted area.
Coming back to the Charlotte Hornets, there’s a good chance that we may see Hachimura grace the purple and teal in a month’s time. Charlotte has traditionally drafted players who have had dominant college seasons.
Notables include Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who earned All-SEC honors as well an NCAA National Championship in his one year at Kentucky; and Frank Kaminsky, who broke out his senior year playing at the University of Wisconsin. Unfortunately, both players have yet to recapture their magical year at their respected programs.
Of course, it would be wrong to not mention Adam Morrison who after putting up a stellar 28 points per game his junior season at Gonzaga, is widely regarded as the biggest bust in franchise history. I’m not saying that Hachimura will falter like those playes, but there is a precedent in place if it were to happen.
Rui Hachimura possesses the skills that make him a lethal offensive player near the rim, but there are questions about his defense and outside shooting ability.