The Washington Wizards traded forward Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers for a package of draft picks, the teams announced Monday.
Hachimura, 24, said Saturday that he had “no comment” regarding recent trade speculation, and that he “just want[ed] to be somewhere that wants me as a basketball player.”
Hachimura, the No. 9 pick in the 2019 draft, struggled to fully blossom during four seasons with Washington. After missing nearly half of last season while on personal leave, Hachimura moved to a bench role this season. He is averaging 13 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 24.3 minutes while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from three-point range.
The Wizards and Hachimura did not reach a contract extension agreement before the deadline in October.
“We watched Rui grow as a professional during his time here and appreciate his contributions on and off the court,” team president Tommy Sheppard said in a statement. “We wish him the best as he begins a new chapter in Los Angeles.”
The Lakers, who were in 12th place in the Western Conference entering Monday, have eyed trades all season after star forward LeBron James criticized the team’s roster construction on opening night. With the Hachimura deal, the Lakers were able to add a rotation player without sacrificing one of their two tradable future first-round picks, which could be used to make additional deals before the Feb. 9 trade deadline.
Hachimura addresses a clear need for Los Angeles, which has been seeking size and athleticism on the wing all season. The team has been forced to use undersized lineups with all-star center Anthony Davis sidelined by a foot injury, and recent injuries to Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves have thinned out their perimeter corps.
Hachimura’s defense has been his weak spot throughout his career, but his 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame offers an enticing blend of versatility and physicality.
If he excels after the change of scenery, the Lakers can make him a restricted free agent by extending him a qualifying offer this summer.
“Adding both size and depth to the wing position has been a goal, and the chance to accomplish that by acquiring a player with Rui’s two-way skills and upside was an opportunity that doesn’t present itself often,” Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka said. “We want to thank Kendrick Nunn and his family for his time as a Laker, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
For the Wizards (20-26), who are sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, the move addresses overcrowding at the power forward position. Unseld’s preferred lineup features Daniel Gafford at center and Kristaps Porzingis at power forward, leaving Hachimura and third-year forward Deni Avdija, a lottery pick in 2020, jostling for minutes off the bench.
Rather than risk losing Hachimura for nothing in free agency, Washington recouped draft assets without taking on any future salary — key for the organization as it faces questions about whether it can retain expensive core players Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma beyond this season.
Kuzma said last month that he will not sign an extension with the Wizards; he has become a player of interest for multiple teams as the Feb. 9 trade deadline approaches, even as Washington has signaled its intention to keep its third-leading scorer, according to multiple people around the league.
Porzingis could exercise a $36 million player option or become an unrestricted free agent. Complicating matters is that Bradley Beal will earn $46.7 million next season in the second year of his five-year max contract. Retaining all three players would push Washington close to paying the luxury tax, which owner Ted Leonsis has done only once since taking over the franchise in 2010.
But finding Hachimura a new home crossed one item off Washington’s to-do list.
The Wizards and Lakers are no strangers as trade partners: They agreed to a 2021 deal that sent Russell Westbrook to Los Angeles. This swap would reunite Hachimura with several former Wizards teammates: Westbrook, with whom he developed a close relationship in Washington, as well as Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr.
Nunn, 27, never found a consistent and productive role with the Lakers this season after missing the 2021-22 campaign with a knee injury. The scoring-minded guard has averaged 6.7 points while shooting just 40.6 percent overall and 32.5 percent from three-point range in 39 appearances. He is in the final season of a two-year, $10.3 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“Kendrick has shown the ability to be a solid perimeter threat who can provide instant offense as a reserve,” Sheppard said. “He has proven to be a valuable contributor during his young career.”