Rui Hachimura has been a guy who has been up and down draft boards and mocks this year. He came in with the hype of a guy ready to break out with first-round potential. Throughout the first month of the season, some people began to talk about him as a possible top ten pick. As the season progressed and his teammate Brandon Clarke began to steal some of the shine, Hachimura seemed to steadily drop down draft boards. Opinions on the 6’8″ forward seem to to be split with some seeing the athleticism and inside the arc scoring. While others can’t get past how often he looks lost of defense. Hachimura fluctuates anywhere from late lottery to end of the first round at this time leading up to draft time in a couple of weeks.
Hachimura, from Japan, is only the fifth Japanese-born division 1 college basketball player ever. He is someone who barely spoke English when he came to the teams, but in three years time has steadily progressed past that communication barrier. In his junior season after averaging 20 points per game, Hachimura was named Western Coast Conference Player of the Year. Not to mention he also earned MVP of the Maui Invitational after Gonzaga beat Duke in one of the best games of the year.
Hachimura has shown to be someone who offensively is a solid player inside the arc. Now it’s time to show just how he does it and where he can also improve at the next level.
Hachimura mostly played the four at Gonzaga. Standing at 6’8″ with a 7’2″ wingspan it was when he was at his best. The time he moved out to the wing when Gonzaga went big with Clarke and Killian Tillie is when Hachimura caught himself in trouble. As a college four Hachimura was able to blow by defenders from the mid-post on straight line drives. His strength around the basket allows him to finish through contact as well.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 22, 2019
Hachimura is someone who can get out in transition and run with the guards unlike some big near his size. He has the quickness to beat the defense down the floor and showed repeatedly the ability to get easy buckets out in transition. His quickness gives him that ability to attack defenders not near quick enough to keep up.
Watching how much of that quickness translates to the next level will be an interesting follow. With most teams playing four men that can guard on the perimeter, something that is almost a requirement now may negate some of that advantage Hachimura has.
Hachimura possesses the ability to knock down shots inside the arc from about 12-15 feet. The problem with this is the fact that nowadays teams and players have shied away from the shot. The mid-range shot has become something of the past with players looking for threes or easy shots around the rim.
Hachimura though thrived in this area, shooting 60% inside of three-point range. The NBA has moved away from big men posting up which is something Hachimura didn’t do a major amount of. He really developed his ability to catch it around the foul line, create separation or just simply pull up this year. His ability to stretch the floor, although not out to three allowed Clarke to work down low.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 6, 2018
Hachimura isn’t someone who took a ton of threes, only attempting 36 last season but he did hit them at a 42% clip. One problem right now is there isn’t much arc to his jumper although he does get some good lift. The mechanics though as of now are good as he also shoots above 70% from the line. All in all, Hachimura does have a skill in shooting the ball that will get his foot in the door to the league in addition to his quickness.
I’ve briefly mentioned above, but the biggest weakness Hachimura has is on the defensive end. At the next level, he will struggle to guard wings if teams feel playing him there is his best position. And when it comes to defending other bigs that can play in space it will also be a problem. Defensively, on and off the ball he just isn’t where he needs to be. It is shocking when you consider his ability to move so swiftly and fluidly as an athlete.
Off the ball, Hachimura can get lost in rotations as well as just plain fall asleep at times. Now some of that is effort and some of it is struggling to understand defensive concepts. He has a tendency to fall asleep as a weakside defender and not rolling to help. This something that can be taught when drilled over and over.
On the ball though, the NBA wants their forwards to guard multiple positions which occasionally means switching onto guards. Gonzaga played a man to man defense that called for switching and Hachimura struggled at times. His ability to contain guards off the dribble was lacking and often took poor angles. His size and length one would think would translate him to being an elite defender with the ability to guard a multitude of positions.
NBA Comparison: Thaddeus Young
Both Young and Hachimura are a tad undersized for the power forward position. Both like to utilize their quickness in the mid-range area to drive by the man guarding them with a quick first step. They work pretty comfortably in the mid-range with limited range, something Young has yet to truly add to his game. Neither really are great creators, Young has improved as a guy who can get guys shots since his first few years in the league. While Young may not be a perfect fit in terms of you’ll get in Hachimura, the comparison of the two does have some similarities. Especially looking at their games coming out of school.