"Stat Just Happened" is our new series where we'll pair an important stat with how it actually unfolded on the floor. Our aim? To answer key questions, uncover hidden truths and peel back the curtain on why some numbers matter more than others.
Today, Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura takes the spotlight.
Washington Wizards rookie forward Rui Hachimura is averaging 13.4 points through the first 41 games of his promising NBA career. And while this is an impressive figure, it might not jump off of the page at first glance.
That is until you put it into perspective.
With Washington's top-two scorers of Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans sitting out of the season's restart, the 22-year-old Hachimura is now the highest-scoring Wizard that will travel to Orlando, Florida. To take things a step further, Hachimura's scoring average places him among elite company in the history of the Wizards franchise as one of just six rookies to average over 13 points per game in the past 50 seasons (min. 30 games) and the first to do so since Beal in the 2012-13 season.
With respect to the current rookie class, Hachimura's 13.4 points per game are good for fifth among all rookies and third among the rookies set to participate in the NBA restart behind Ja Morant and Kendrick Nunn. He's also the best rebounder in this season's rookie class, as his 6.0 rebounds per game lead all first-year players.
But what does it all mean?
At 24-40, the Wizards are 5.5 games behind the 8th-seeded Orlando Magic (30-35) and a full six games behind the Brooklyn Nets (30-34) in the standings - these three teams will jockey for the East's final playoff spots. Washington's most realistic shot at capturing a playoff spot is to force a play-in situation by finishing within four games of either Orlando or Brooklyn, no easy task considering the team will be without nearly 40% of its scoring.
MORE: How Beal's injury affect potential playoff pairings
Entering the bubble, a number of question marks surround this Wizards team and their ability to compete during the schedule of eight seeding games. There is one certainty, however, and it's that Hachimura will be the team's No. 1 option in Orlando.
After scoring 19.0 points per game in his final season at Gonzaga, Hachimura has shown the ability to fill it up at the professional level, scoring 20 or more points seven times this season, including an impressive 27-point performance in an early December win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
In that game, Hachimura scored 19 points in the first half, showcasing his ability as a cutter…
...scorer in transition…
...and shot creator from the perimeter.
The perimeter buckets are the most impressive, specifically the jumpers when guarded by Joel Embiid, one of the league's best defenders, who often makes things difficult for forwards like Hachimura by forcing them into mid-range shots like the ones he hits above. Without Beal and Bertans to space the floor, Hachimura can look to use this time to continue to develop his ability to create his own shot and improve as a shooter off the catch.
It's a very small sample size, but in 86 minutes on the court without Beal this season, Hachimura posted per 36 averages of 15.5 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 46.4% from the field. In 733 minutes on the court without Bertans? Hachimura is averaging 17.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per 36 minutes.
The experience as a No. 1 option in Orlando will do wonders for Hachimura, who next season will receive less attention from defences as he plays off of the star backcourt of Beal and John Wall once they return to the lineup. This bodes well for the future of the Wizards franchise, who look to return to prominence after falling just one game shy of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017.
Take a nice long look at where Hachimura's scoring figure is now, because it's going to rise very soon.
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