The power forward position has gone through a major overhaul the last few years and teams in the lottery hunting for a modern swingman who can face up and generate offence have to look no further than Toyoma, Japan native Rui Hachimura.
At 6'8" with a powerful 230-pound frame and a 7'2" wingspan he has prototypical size and length for a contemporary NBA four and also features the speed and perimeter capability to play the three and create matchup issues for more lanky wings. Versatility is what makes Hachimura such an intriguing prospect and the endless ways he could be utilized offensively will make front office executives salivate.
Play him at small forward and he can take his man to the block and spin-off him with masterful footwork for a layup. Play him at power forward and let him work on slower players in space where he can either blow by with a lightning-quick first step or create room with a side step to showcase his silky mid-range jump shot. Utilize him off the ball and he can punish sleeping help defender with intelligent cuts resulting in uncontested dunks.
While he hasn't yet reached the defensive potential his bouncy athleticism and ample length would suggest the tools are all there for him to become a lockdown defender and given the right coach and situation that is a very possible outcome.
Only coming to America three years ago he has shown remarkable improvement every season he's played in college and there is no reason to believe that his upward trajectory shouldn't continue in the NBA.
Some teams in the lottery may prefer a player with one or two focused skills they can point to but others will cherish Hachimura's malleability and for that reason, I think his potential draft range is much wider than any of his peers, though I see him coming off the board earlier rather than later.
Modern NBA basketball is all about creating mismatches and exploiting them and Hachimura is proficient at taking advantage of players on either side of the physical spectrum, both smaller and bigger than him.
Powerfully built in the lower body he's got an outstanding burst with his first dribble and that allows him to get dribble penetration seemingly whenever he wants and though NBA defenders will be able to slow him down a bit he's got the muscle to create the contact that gives him space to operate.
When he gets into the lane he's got a great array of finishing moves that showcase both his length and his strength and when he decides not to take it all the way to the cup he's got an underrated floater to get the job done. If defenders try to sag off him to protect the rim when he gets a head of steam his countermove is a polished mid-range jumper and that makes him a threat whenever he drives.
Another way he can create offence is down in the paint where his extensive mix of post moves usually ends with an easy hook shot with either hand. He draws a lot of fouls by using leveraging his body weight against less balanced opponents and at 74% from the stripe he can convert pretty effectively from there. With so many teams switching everything defensively nowadays Hachimura will be able to punish guards that switch onto him and distort a lot of the common defensive schemes teams are playing with his gifted post play one on one.
Scoring within the flow of the game is also one of Hachimura's strengths and it allows him to put up points without needing a play called for him. Dominant in transition he can find lanes to the hoop that seemingly no one else sees and his tireless motor allows him to beat others down the floor. One of the most productive players in college basketball scoring off cuts last season he is really intelligent moving away from the ball and an enterprising coach is going to see him fitting brilliantly within a complex offensive scheme.
Hachimura projects to be a high-level scorer in the NBA and given the fact that scoring is one of the most sought-after skill sets in the draft he will be incredibly coveted.
While there are endless positives about his offensive game Hachimura has some work to do on the defensive side of the ball. Whereas the offensive side of the game seems to come easily to Hachimura he often is lost on the defensive side and has struggled with rotations, often finding himself in trouble when play gets scrambled and he needs to make a read. As an individual defender, he can slide his feet to guard dribble penetration effectively but he hasn't yet grasped the philosophies of team defence and he'll have the unfavourable challenge of learning that aspect of the game at the NBA level.
You might glance at Hachimura's 42% 3-point stroke and be high on his ability to space the floor but I think that number is a bit of fool's gold. In 37 games he only attempted 36 shots from behind the arc and while he knocked down a tremendous percentage of them the low rate of attempts and the reluctance he showed to pull the trigger tells me he isn't confident in that area quite yet. He's got a pristine stroke from mid-range and is a good free throw shooter which all points to the fact he should develop into a reliable 3-point release but so far from what we've seen of him I'm not quite ready to say it for certain.
Another knock could be that teams may see the style in which Hachimura dominated in college and find it untranslatable to the NBA. A lion's share of his offence came on post-ups which are possessions we don't see a lot in the NBA and he also feasted on backdoor cuts and drop off passes resulting from the potency of Gonzaga's offence firing off against lesser teams. He often looked like a man amongst boys in transition and while there is something to be said about his proficiency in that area scouts will want assurance he can generate more in the half court than on the break.
While I think a lot of his work off the dribble will translate to the NBA game he won't be getting a lot of the easy buckets he saw in college and that will make for some intriguing front office evaluations of Hachimura.
Projected Draft Position: 6-12
Projected NBA Role: Secondary scoring option.
NBA Comparison: Thaddeus Young
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