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What Will Rui Hachimura’s Role Be With the Wizards When He Returns?

washington wizards rui hachimura return

The Wizards are facing a unique challenge this year; they have depth, and lots of it. It is either a good or a bad problem depending on the viewpoint one takes. Some awkwardness in ironing out the rotation has been avoided with injuries to certain players like Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant. Once they become healthy, however, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will have to deal with positional overlap and reconciling skill sets and chemistry, 

One Wizards player whose role has been widely speculated about has been that of Rui Hachimura, the third-year power forward out of Gonzaga. Hachimura has had a strong start to his NBA career so far and has flashed a great deal of shot-making potential on offense. Last season, he averaged 13.8 points per game while upping his field goal and 3-point percentages as well as his 3-point volume. The Wizards were particularly encouraged by his performance in the Olympics for Japan, in which he averaged 22.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 38.1 percent on 3-pointers. Some pundits speculated that Rui could take a leap towards stardom this season, and potentially serve as a complement to Bradley Beal. Big, shot-making forwards are at a premium in the NBA right now, and his development has been trending in an extremely positive direction thus far. 

Hachimura’s start to the season, however, has not gone according to plan. He missed the start of the regular season, and the team announced on September 25th that he would miss an undisclosed amount of time due to personal reasons. He has now returned to practicing with the team as of November 23rd, and will likely make his season debut sooner rather than later. 

Something serious must have been going on for him to feel like he needed to take a step away from the game, and the Wizards are definitely taking the right approach for both themselves and for Hachimura by not rushing him back. However, Kyle Kuzma has played extremely well at the power forward spot in his absence, leading the team in rebounds per game and shooting a cool 35.5 percent on 5.9 3-point attempts per game. He has also been a solid team defensive presence and has hit some huge clutch shots in big moments so far this year.

Depth is a great thing to be able to rely on as a team when players are injured, but it can make things difficult for a coach when everyone is healthy. Wes Unseld Jr. has a lot of mouths to feed at the hybrid forward position between Hacimura, Bertans and Kuzma. Even Thomas Bryant must be considered in that mix now that Daniel Gafford is the starting center. Hachimura is indisputably one of the most talented players on the roster, but the Wizards are sitting comfortably at the fourth seed in the conference and beating very good teams. Hachimura has been. 

It is hard to rationalize tampering with the winning formula. Things could get especially complicated if one of those players becomes dissatisfied with their role (or lack of one), and a trade could quickly be on the horizon. Too many cooks can spoil the stew. Here’s to hoping Coach Unseld has a plan to deal with his forthcoming bounty of talented forwards. 

All stats courtesy of ESPN and Basketball-Reference

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