Being Patient With Rui Hachimura Could Pay Off In A Big Way
This piece does not reflect the views of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
F, Junior, Gonzaga
6’8, 230 lbs
College Stats in 2018-19:
37 games, 37 starts, 30.2 MPG, 19.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 59.1 FG%, 41.7 3P%, 73.9 FT%
Where he’ll go:
Hachimura will be a first-round pick.
Hachimura is a project profile, there’s no question about that. However, the trajectory he followed in college is extremely encouraging. After averaging 2.6 points per game his freshman season, Hachimura improved both his totals and his efficiency in almost every stat category leading up to the 2018-19 season where he put together an impressive campaign.
There’s no question that Hachimura has the physical traits and raw skills to succeed in the NBA. He can score the ball in many different ways, he’s lethal on the break and looked like he could overpower pretty much anyone at the college level. He’s also a constantly-improving shooter who looks like he could certainly develop an NBA three-point shot.
The issue is that Hachimura will lose the physical advantage he has over his competition once he gets into the NBA and that will expose his still-developing understanding of the game. He didn’t start playing organized basketball until he was 14 and that relative inexperience shows. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—to be as good as Hachimura is in such an early stage of his development is encouraging—but he’s going to be caught out of place a lot his first few seasons in the NBA.
What gives teams hope is the speed at which Hachimura adjusted to the college game. To go from the end of the bench to putting up great numbers in a starting role for one of the best programs in the country over the span of two years (I’m considering his first two years his developmental years) is impressive. If he can keep growing at the rate he is now in the NBA, Hachimura could be a real steal.
The key with Hachimura is going to be patience, a ton of film work and a commitment to isolating and improving small elements in his game while he’s playing a role that allows him to see the floor. He needs to keep extending the range on his shot, working on his passing instincts and working on keeping the ball up on his drives. His team will need to ask him to play a simple role initially and get him looks he’s comfortable with. If he’s asked to do too much too early, he could be overwhelmed, which is not a recipe for success. However, as he grows, Hachimura could be a valuable asset.