The Lakers — the team whose trade aspirations have been dissected and discussed since the offseason — made a trade Monday, their fans collectively reacting in a singular way.
The team sent a trio of second-round picks and guard Kendrick Nunn to Washington for Rui Hachimura, a 6-foot-8 hybrid forward who turns 25 in a couple of weeks.
Instead of starting trade season off with a blockbuster deal highlighted by either their 2027 or 2029 first-round picks, the Lakers struck a more sensible note in trading for the former lottery pick.
The deal, which became official Monday afternoon, required the Lakers to trade Chicago’s 2023 second, their own 2029 second and the worse of their or the Wizards’ 2028 second-round picks.
They addressed some obvious needs and better balanced their roster by swapping out a small guard for a big wing.
Hachimura is kind of a classic “buy low” player. He has the size and shooting you’d want out of a modern power forward, but durability and roster construction problems in Washington have kept him from taking any large developmental steps.
He’s averaging 13 points per game this season and 4.3 rebounds, making 48.8% from the field and 33.7% from three-point range. Hachimura is also coming off a game in which he equaled his career high with 30 points in a 138-118 win over Orlando last Saturday.
He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season, giving the Lakers a head start on evaluating him as a role player alongside LeBron James and, soon enough, Anthony Davis.
Nunn, who missed all of his first season with the Lakers because of a knee injury, had begun to play better over the last month, but with Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves set to return from injury and rookie Max Christie’s emergence, the Lakers were overrun with guards.
The Lakers valued Hachimura’s size and hope he can address some of the team’s rebounding woes, though he’s been somewhat inconsistent on the glass.
Hachimura’s youth and potential, though, allow for the Lakers’ front office to successfully thread the needle they’ve been focused on — improving the team in the trade market this year while also adding a piece that could matter for them in the long-term.
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He should help the Lakers’ second unit, though he was a starter the first two seasons of his NBA career.
The trade comes at a time when the Lakers have made a strong on-court argument that the team is worthy of investment.
Davis is on track to return this week, and without him, the Lakers just beat the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers, coming back from one of the worst quarters in NBA history to steal a win on Sunday in Portland.
And James, despite being in Year 20, just won his second player of the week honors in the last three weeks.
Between now and the Feb. 9 trade deadline, the Lakers play eight games — six against teams that would currently be in the postseason plus one against the plenty dangerous Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers host San Antonio on Wednesday on the second night of a back-to-back set in the easiest game of the stretch.
But after starting the season 2-12, the Lakers have gone 20-13.
“I think the NBA’s a long season,” Patrick Beverley said Sunday. “It’s always predicated on the most conditioned team coming into training camp always start well. They even off, and the vets kind of catch their legs 20-25 games in. They win some games. It’s so competitive in this league, you can win any game. You can beat good teams. You can lose to anybody any night. I believe our early tests, our early injuries has prepared us for a lot going into the postseason, going into the down stretch of the season.
“Any adversity you’re fortunate with. For me and my teammates, you appreciate adversity. It helps you get through the tough times.”
The Lakers are hoping a big, young forward with some potential can help them through some tough times too.
It might not be the big move — but the Lakers feel like they got better on Monday.
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