Rui Hachimura

Rui Hachimura has demonstrated throughout his rookie season that he’s a capable scorer, using his athleticism to get plenty of close-to-the-basket shots and perimeter scoring chances.

The Washington Wizards power forward has also shown that he has the stamina and strength to be a solid rebounder.

Through Wednesday, Hachimura is averaging 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 29.4 minutes in 38 games. After missing 23 games due to a groin injury, Hachimura returned to the rotation against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 3 and has found his offensive rhythm. He’s scored in double figures in 12 of the 13 games since his return, including a pair of 20-point efforts in that stretch.

On defense, he’s also embraced the challenge of being tested against the best. Which is exactly what happened on Feb. 24 against reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

While defending the Bucks superstar, the 22-year-old Hachimura had some success in slowing him down on offense. No easy task.

Just ask any other player in the NBA.

In the Bucks’ 137-134 overtime victory, Hachimura played a game-high 46 minutes and Washington held the Greek Freak to 22 points (nearly eight below his season average of 29.6). He also committed eight turnovers (well above his 3.7 average).

“According to NBA.com‘s tracking data, Hachimura forced three of those turnovers,” NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes reported. “He guarded Antetokounmpo to begin the game and very quickly set a physical tone with bump-and-run defense.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks acknowledged that it’s difficult for a rookie to square off against Antetokounmpo, but stated bluntly that it’s Hachimura’s job to handle the task.

“It’s his position,” Brooks was quoted as saying by NBC Sports Washington. “He’s going to have to guard a lot of good fours in this league. There is nobody better.”

Hachimura’s commitment to become a better all-around player was on display throughout that game.

“I’m not scared, I just have to guard him — that’s my job,” Hachimura said of Antetokounmpo, according to NBC Sports Washington. “Just have to be physical.”

Note: NBA insiders Marc Stein and Marques Johnson and Wizards reporter Candace Buckner (The Washington Post) give insights about Hachimura later in this column. Click on the link below.

Full story: Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura making strides on defense | The Japan Times