#8 on the PB Big Board
F – Gonzaga
Junior, 6’8, 230 pounds
What he does well:
Scoring in the paint
For a prospect who came to basketball as late in life as Rui Hachimura, the Japanese-born big man has a surprisingly crafty offensive game and a deft touch between the blocks.
This play showcases Hachimura’s ability to use his foot speed to his advantage, getting to the cup in the blink of an eye.
Here he establishes position, corrals a tough pass, and finishes in traffic against one of the biggest frontlines in college basketball (Florida State).
This season, he developed as a ball-handler, making him capable of hard moves in space like this one:
Beyond these three plays, Hachimura’s tape is littered with elbow jumpers, drop-step post moves, and quick twitch plays around the rim leading to buckets. He knows how to score inside the arc, full stop.
When Hachimura arrived at Gonzaga, he was one of the rawest recruits in college basketball, even if Mark Few and his staff saw something deeper to develop. As a freshman, he essentially redshirted, playing only 130 minutes the entire season. When he did play, Hachimura made a litany of mistakes, but showed real flashes of what he could become.
Every piece of his game, as it has developed at Gonzaga, is derived from his pure athletic ability. At his size, Hachimura exhibits phenomenal foot speed, leaping ability, and all-around athletic prowess.
This season, Hachimura used his athleticism to win individual match-ups defensively. He was blessed to have Brandon Clarke behind, above, around, and near him on defense, making everything easier on that side of the ball.
Offensively, Hachimura used his physical gifts to get the ball to the areas on the floor where he had a chance to score. Even when teams forced him to catch the ball from the block, Hachimura’s quick steps and strong center of gravity helped him make his way to the rim or to an open airspace for a floater.
Where he struggles:
This season, Hachimura shot better than 41 percent from outside the arc. This was a stark improvement from his two previous seasons at Gonzaga, when he shot just 23 percent from long range. These percentages seem like a wild swing, in part due to the small sample sizes involved here.
Hachimura took just 40 long range attempts in his first two seasons and nearly matched that total this year, hitting 15 of his 36 tries from outside the arc. In better news, he made nearly three-quarters of his free throw attempts, with 378 trips to the charity stripe in three years.
To believe in Hachimura’s potential as a pro, you’d have to have a bullish outlook on his jump shot. I like his shooting form aesthetically, but it’s hard to be confident in Hachimura’s outside shooting given what we’ve seen from his time in college. All 15 of his made threes this year came via an assist, indicating that they were generally open looks. At the next level, to be a successful floor spacer, Hachimura will have to shoot more readily and more reliably.
Gonzaga ran a lot of its offense through Hachimura at the elbow this season. With ample opportunities, he showed himself more than capable of scoring via a face-up, with his back to the basket, or with a jump shot.
For a player with his usage levels though, Hachimura has never been a strong passer. He finished his college career with 120 turnovers and just 81 assists. Hachimura’s assist percentage this season finished at just 9.1, abnormally low for a player as talented as him.
With plenty of capable scorers around him, Hachimura should have been able to hunt assists more effectively, making his teammates better offensively.
Size when it matters
Hachimura projects as a power forward at the next level, even though he only stands only 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds. In today’s NBA, that is plenty big to play the four for long stretches of the game. Players like Draymond Green, PJ Tucker, and OG Anunoby all play most of their minutes at the four slot and even slide over to play small ball center, while measuring the same height as Hachimura or shorter.
Against Gonzaga’s schedule, which featured a weak West Coast Conference slate, Hachimura scored with ease in the painted area, yet did not out-and-out dominate inside. As a junior this year, Hachimura only managed to record 6.5 rebounds per game and less than one block per game. Those numbers, at his age and against the competition he faced, are not indicative of a player who will be able to handle the jump to bigger, stronger athletes in the NBA with ease.
How his game translates to the NBA:
The path for Rui Hachimura is simple. He can look to his former Gonzaga teammate Domantas Sabonis for guidance. Sabonis gives the Pacers a reliable scoring option against the right match-ups or when left open. He plays dependable defense against both front court positions.
The difference between the two is a few inches of height. Sabonis is longer and far more capable to protect the rim and rebound the ball. Hachimura can make up for those differences with his athleticism. He’s shiftier, leaner, and smoother than Sabonis. That should give him a better chance to be the kind of versatile defender that would intrigue every NBA team.
Hachimura’s potential to switch in the pick-and-roll or to freelance defensively in transition makes him an intriguing prospect at that end of the floor. Here’s an example of him winning a switch:
- Domantas Sabonis
- Dario Saric
- The Morris Twins
Next up: #9 Jarrett Culver
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and senior writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to ESPN.com, Rush The Court, Larry Brown Sports, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. You can find every post from this blog on Twitter by following @PalestraBack.
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