The Los Angeles Lakers front office led by Rob Pelinka swung the first big trade of deadline season when they sent Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks to the Washington Wizards in exchange for forward Rui Hachimura. The fourth-year forward brings frontcourt depth and a potential 3-and-D wing to the Lakers.
Though he didn’t suit up for the Lakers on Tuesday night, Hachimura was with the team and Pelinka officially introduced him as a member of the franchise, speaking about what he will bring to the team.
“It’s a really exciting day to welcome Rui [Hachimura] and his family to the Lakers and his agent Darren Matsubara,” Pelinka said. “I can remember scouting Rui when he was at Gonzaga. He was a player we followed through his entire NBA career.
“In fact, I was telling Mats, his agent, the other day. I remember talking to him when they played Loyola Marymount, when our entire scout staff was there too, and just proud to be able to add a player like this who’s 24 years old. Adds incredible depth for us on the wing. Adds really unique 3-and-D talents. And most importantly, is just a high-character individual that cares about playing basketball the right way. And those guys really thrive in our system. So, Rui, welcome. We couldn’t be more honored to have you.”
Hachimura definitely has the tools to make a difference for the Lakers this season and in the future. He wasn’t a name that had been mentioned as a possibility for the Lakers and it only recently began being reported that he was available for trade, meaning Pelinka had to move quickly. His skillset is something Pelinka felt was a need for the Lakers, but the Lakers general manager also noted that this move doesn’t mean he’s done dealing before the deadline is over.
“Yeah, I think one of the needs we wanted to address with the roster was just adding size and depth to the wing position. And, of course, this is the time of year with the trade deadline a couple of weeks away where we’re canvassing the league on ways to get better,” Pelinka added. “With me, that’s talking to all 29 other teams and their GMs. And just keeping a cadence, checking in every few days, that’s just something that all the teams are doing this time of year, and we’ve had a great working relationship with the [Washington] Wizards and Tommy Shepherd, obviously, have done a couple of trades with them recently.
“And began conversations about a week ago, when Rui became available, what they were trying to accomplish. And felt like it was an opportunity for us to strike early and address a need in a market that is proven to be a little bit slow. And it doesn’t mean our works finished, we’re going to continue to monitor the situations with the 29 other teams, and our job as a front office is to always look for ways to improve our team both now and in the future. And we felt like Rui was the perfect way to do that. And that’s why we struck early.”
Moving quickly was a smart move as the market for a player like Hachimura could have become even more competitive, especially if he were to string a couple of impressive games together. The Lakers were able to bring him in while giving up little in return and now everyone will wait and see whether Pelinka will be able to make another splash before the trade deadline passes.
Pelinka reiterates willingness to trade first round picks if deal makes Lakers championship contender
One of the most notable pieces of the deal for Hachimura is that it did not cost the Lakers one of the first-round draft picks they have available to deal. Whether the Lakers are willing to move those picks has been an ongoing question, but Pelinka again made it clear that he will do so if that trade makes the Lakers a true contender.
“I think the calculus for the Lakers is to win a championship or not. There’s no in-between or incremental growth. So as we analyze opportunities, we have to do it through that lens,” Pelinka said. “And I said this at the beginning of the season, if there’s an opportunity to get all the way to the end and win a championship, there’s no resource we’ll hold on to if we feel like that’s there.
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