First game of Rui Hachimura's second season showed upward trajectory

Chase Hughes
·3 min read

Hachimura showed upward trajectory in season debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

After a promising first year where he earned All-Rookie honors, the first Wizards player to do that since Bradley Beal in 2013, Rui Hachimura made his 2020-21 regular season debut on Thursday night, offering the first glimpse at his year-to-year trajectory. The early returns were good.

Hachimura, who missed the first four games of the season with conjunctivitis, made an instant impact with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes, albeit in a loss to the Bulls. He shot 5-for-8 overall and 2-for-2 from three.

Hachimura displayed his three-point shot early by knocking down an open jumper from the wing. He got another one to fall later in the first quarter before the Bulls adjusted and started trailing him closer on the perimeter.

Hachimura said entering the game his three-point shooting was a big point of emphasis for him in the offseason. He shot just 28.7 percent from long range as a rookie.

Being more of a three-point threat would open more lanes for him to do damage in the midrange and in the paint, where he was at his best last year. And that effect was seen against the Bulls, as after making his two threes he got Otto Porter Jr. to close him out on the corner and bite on a pumpfake, which led to an open Thomas Bryant three.

Hachimura also made what may have been the best, or at least flashiest, pass of his career so far, a behind-the-back feed to Bryant for an easy slam. He only averaged 1.8 assists as a rookie, but in this game had three of them.

Hachimura also stated improved defense as a goal for him in Year 2 and on that end of the floor, he showed his learning curve at times. Porter got hot early when Hachimura was guarding him. On one play, Hachimura drifted off of Porter to help in the lane and left the Bulls sharpshooter wide open for a three.

Opponents guarded by Hachimura shot 38.5 percent from three last season, per the NBA's tracking numbers. That's not crazy high, but high enough that he will will want to improve in that area. Hachimura will likely be tasked with guarding stretch-fours for much of his career.

There was also the final play of the game when Hachimura was entrusted with the inbound pass when his team was down three with 5.5 seconds remaining. Hachimura threw a Christian Laettner-like heave across halfcourt that was intercepted.

Head coach Scott Brooks said after the game it was a designed play for Hachimura to pass the ball that far, despite seemingly having enough time to connect with someone closer. Hachimura, evidently, just didn't execute the pass.

That was another moment Hachimura can learn from moving forward. But all in all, it was a good first step to begin his sophomore campaign.

Since Hachimura entered the league at 21 and after three years of college, some have questioned what his long-term ceiling will ultimately be. The fact he wasn't a one-and-done, 19-year-old is likely one of the reasons he fell to the Wizards at nine. Teams often favor the unknown over the proven college veteran, assuming there is more upside to tap into.

But only time will tell what Hachimura is capable of, how high he can soar in his NBA development. Last year was the baseline, now we're getting to see his first year-to-year leap. So far, it's looking good.