NBA Rookie Watch: Rui Hachimura Is Prolific And Flawed

Rui Hachimura was a tremendous college basketball player, forming a devastating tandem with Brandon Clarke and helping to lead Gonzaga to lofty heights. While Clarke was the analytical darling of the two, Hachimura drew more national headlines for his college play and, with an intriguing profile, it wasn’t a stunner when the 6’8 power forward became the No. 9 overall pick.

Still, there were tangible questions about Hachimura’s translation to the NBA game, especially when considering his lack of three-point shooting, spotty defense and low-end feel for the game. While those issues haven’t been alleviated to this point, Hachimura is still impressing in other areas, especially in recent days.

In the last six contests, the 21-year-old is averaging 19.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for the Wizards and, in that stretch, Hachimura is playing a robust 37.1 minutes. While that workload is almost assuredly going to drop, Hachimura ranks sixth in rookie scoring (14.2 points per game) and he trails only Clarke in rebounding (5.8 per game).

To be candid, Hachimura isn’t helping a porous Wizards defense and, ultimately, he’ll need to translate some of his physical tools into improved performance on that end. Still, there have been flashes of defensive encouragement and it is undeniably impressive that Hachimura can maintain close to league-average true shooting (53 percent) without the benefit of three-point accuracy. Down the line, Hachimura is going to have to make strides in a few key areas in order to help at the highest levels but, if nothing else, he hasn’t been close to the worst top-10 pick and the Wizards seem to be happy with their initial investment.

Where does Hachimura rank in this week’s rookie watch? Let’s cook.

Honorable Mentions

  • Jarrett Culver – It was an ugly start for the No. 6 pick but Culver is slowly but surely coming along. That includes reaching double-figures in 10 of the last 12 games.
  • Terence Davis – Davis has cooled off since last week and that was always going to happen. He’s still playing a real role on a very good basketball team, and doing so in quality fashion.
  • De’Andre Hunter – Hunter missed a game this week with a finger ailment but, on the whole, his case for All-Rookie consideration revolves around reasonable two-way play and high-end deployment.
  • Cameron Johnson – Johnson is very much a one-tricky pony but he’s playing real minutes (about 20 per game) on a team that is playing at a solid level. There’s nothing wrong with that.
  • Cam Reddish – It’s still been kind of a mess for Reddish offensively this season but his defense has been quite strong. He makes an appearance here after an efficient 25-point game against Brooklyn.

10) Matisse Thybulle

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Thybulle is a weird, low-usage offensive player. As a result, he won’t land on any of the traditional lists used to differentiate rookies from the pack. However, he’s been solidly efficient as a shooter (again, on a very small sample) and his defensive play-making is out of this world. He easily leads the rookie class in steals and, in a crazy twist for a wing, he’s also fourth among rookies in blocked shots.

9) Jaxson Hayes

Since taking on a larger role for the Pelicans, Hayes has been quite productive. In the last 12 outings (10 starts), the talented center is averaging 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Throw in 60 percent shooting and strong advanced stats, and you have quite an intriguing overall package.

8) Kendrick Nunn

Nunn bounced back with an 18-point performance against the Bulls this week and he did it on strong efficiency. Even with that, though, he’s shooting 34 percent from the floor in the last seven games and the expected regression is happening.

7) R.J. Barrett

Barrett is almost certainly going to finish in the top five in multiple counting categories among rookies. He’s also shooting below 40 percent from the field and not playing a lot of defense. The team situation is brutal for him in myriad ways, but it’s a statistical case that loses steam if you look beyond per-game averages.

6) Rui Hachimura

As noted above, Hachimura is in an “all you can eat” situation with the Wizards. He’s making 54 percent of his two-point field goals and, honestly, that’s impressive.

5) Brandon Clarke

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It would be easy to argue that Clarke has been the best rookie in the NBA on a per-minute basis. He’s just not playing as much as some of the other guys and, at the moment, he’s battling an oblique injury.

4) Tyler Herro

There has been some ebb and flow to Herro’s season but, when he’s good, he’s very good. He’s topped 20 points on a handful of occasions, including the last two games, and Herro is posting a 57 percent true shooting. If that holds alongside a top-five scoring average, he’ll be in the mix for first team All-Rookie.

3) P.J. Washington

After a bit of a lull, Washington’s production has ticked back up to where it was in the early going. He’s started all 25 games for Charlotte (an achievement in itself) and, in the last seven contests, Washington is averaging 14.9 points on 50 percent shooting. For good measure, he currently leads all rookies in win shares.

2) Eric Paschall

Because the Warriors are brutal, Paschall’s early-season performance is still flying under the radar. He’s been unbelievable by any rookie standard, and doubly so for a player picked outside the top 40. Paschall has been one of the Golden State’s “go-to” offensive options and, as crazy as that is, he’s handled the job admirably.

1) Ja Morant

The No. 2 overall pick hasn’t suited up since Nov. 29 as a result of a back injury and, obviously, that takes a bit of his shine anyway. However, he’s cleared to play Monday night and no one has mounted enough of a challenge to dethrone Morant this week. Leading the class in points and assists (to go along with solid efficiency) gives him quite a cushion.