It’s already obvious that Rui Hachimura’s talent, athleticism, work ethic and never-wavering determination to improve every day are a winning combination.
The Washington Wizards rookie is on a path to stardom, and many astute hoop observers are saying he has the potential to be a great NBA player. The Wizards have 70 more regular-season games, but the first 12 have provided glimpses of his impressive talents. Scoring 14, 19, 16 and 23 points in his first four games, including a double-double in his NBA debut, was not unlike a movie trailer: There’s more entertainment to come. Sit down, relax and enjoy the show!
Game No. 4 was the Wizards’ home opener on Oct. 30 against the Houston Rockets, and represents his career-high point total. And after a scoreless outing against the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 6, the Toyama native responded with a 21-point effort (10-for-13 shooting) against the Cleveland Cavaliers two days later, then dropped 21 on the Boston Celtics on Nov. 13.
“I love his game,” Marc Spears, The Undefeated’s senior NBA writer, said on the “Wizards Talk” podcast on Nov. 8. “I love his aggressiveness offensively. I think he’s a good rebounder, but could be a great rebounder.”
The 21-year-old became the first Japanese player to be chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft (No. 9 overall) in June. As a result, he’s a visible figure halfway around the world whose visibility is strengthened because he respects the public’s enormous appetite for morsels of news about him.
“He’s embraced the media,” Spears observed. “He’s embraced the Japanese media and wants to be a voice out there.”
While the injured-plagued Wizards are 4-8, Hachimura, who has started every game, is averaging 13.2 points (No. 6 among rookies), 5.7 rebounds (tied for second among rookies) and 1.8 assists. He’s shooting 50.4 percent from the floor. He had 15 points and seven rebounds in a 138-132 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
According to basketball-reference.com‘s advanced statistics through Sunday, his shooting numbers include 68.9 percent from super-close range (0 meters to 0.9 meters). He’s a clinical finisher, attacking the basket with excellent results. He’s also making 61.1 percent of his shots from 3.0 meters to 4.8 meters, a reminder of his potent midrange jumper.
This week, NBC Sports Washington’s Mike DePrisco penned an analysis of the current crop of rookies with this headline: “2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year tracker: How does Rui Hachimura compare to Ja Morant, other elite rookies?”
DePrisco makes the argument that Hachimura is one of the NBA’s top rookies.
“So far, Hachimura has looked really good,” DePrisco wrote before the Spurs game. “His 3-point stroke hasn’t come along yet, but he’s shooting 50 percent from the floor and currently ranks seventh among rookies in scoring.
“His pull-up jumper looks legit, he’s far more mobile than he was given credit for, and once Hachimura learns how to finish through contact and figure out his spots on the floor, he’s going to be dangerous screening for Bradley Beal.”
In ranking the top rookies, DePrisco puts Hachimura at No. 5. His top four: Morant (Memphis Grizzlies), Kendrick Nunn (Miami Heat), Eric Paschall (Golden State Warriors) and Miami’s Tyler Herro, all of whom are scoring in double figures, with Morant leading the way with 18.4 points and 6.0 assists. (Top overall pick Zion Williamson has yet to play for the New Orleans Pelicans.)