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On a night that LeBron James hit his first triple-double of the season and moved into fourth place on the NBA’s all-time leaderboard, the performance that may have the biggest implications for the Los Angeles Lakers’ long-term prospects is Rui Hachimura.
Just over a week after the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Hachimura for Kendrick Noone and a future second-round pick, he scored 19 points and was a plus-4 in Los Angeles’ 129-123 win over the New York Knicks.
The victory at Madison Square Garden moved the Lakers to nearly four games of a . 500 record and within two games of the championship. It provided a glimpse into how Hachimura has changed the geometry of Los Angeles
During his increasingly legendary career, LeBron achieved success as perhaps the most dangerous slashing and kicking weapon we’ve ever seen. Even in his 20th season in the NBA, LeBron can break the seal of perimeter defense in a way that few can. And once he’s in, he has the size, vision and strength to make the best knockout option.
Of course, that assumes there are good options on the floor with LeBron. This was not the case for long periods of this campaign.
The Lakers are heading to victory Tuesday over the Knicks 26 In the league by three percentage points and dead the last Three times for every 100 possessions.
Since the start of 2021-22, Hachimura has averaged 1.2 triples in just 23.3 minutes, while shooting 39.4 percent from depth. If that holds up, it will help LA in each of the team categories listed above.
And if Tuesday is any indication, he should really be able to keep up.
Hashimura went 2-of-4 of three against the Knicks and seemed comfortable playing the floor spacer and perimeter LeBron drives, but that wasn’t all he brought.
Before and after the trade, Hachimra scored above average efficiency He’s in transition, and he could get more opportunities there as LeBron’s teammate.
Lakers Second In the league in terms of pace of play, Hachimura has already capitalized on that characteristic of his new team.
Tuesday, he got a sold-out jam delivered by Russell Westbrook…
The Lakers got off to a hot start on TNT. pic.twitter.com/j37ncDGvOP
…and another from LeBron.
LeBron finds Roy for the jam! 🔨
👑: 20 points, 8 rep, 10 ast
Lakers lead 101-96 on TNT. pic.twitter.com/XsdMq0Dy4h
What he didn’t show much of was his playoff game (although he did hit two middle-range jumpers against New York). And while he may not need to team up with LeBron and Anthony Davis, knowing the potential escape valve is there should help.
However, despite the good vibes from the win, it’s hard to avoid a wide-lens perspective on this team.
Again, it’s four games under .500. Even in a year when parity has seemingly leveled the playing field in the Midwest, the Lakers are out of the play picture. LeBron is currently challenging Father Time, but he’s 38 years old. Availability isn’t guaranteed for it, and it certainly isn’t for AD.
And although Russell Westbrook has settled in well in his reserve role, off-the-ball gaps in defense and questionable decision-making late in the game are still all too common. Los Angeles minus 9.4 A point per 100 clutches (defined by the league as the last five minutes of games within five points) possession when Westbrook is on the ground.
If the Lakers can package their expiring contract with a first-round pick (or two) for another player (or two) who checks some of the same boxes as Hachimura, L.A. can go from the extra-play team to the none-play team. He wants to see in a series of seven games.
There is obviously some price variance for each of the following, but…
Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, a bunch of Toronto Raptors, Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burkes, Doug McDermott and a bunch of other Utah Jazz players…
… could all be available before the February 9th trading deadline.
Of course, even after Miles Turner reached agreement on extending his contract with the Indiana Pacers this month, the “Westbrook, 2027 and 2029 first-round Turner and Body Held” rumor just won’t die.
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marksthe deal does not affect Turner’s trade eligibility, and the recent absence of Tyrese Haliburton has contributed to Indiana’s exit from the top 10 in the East. Now is the time for the Pacers to lean back and rebuild, and the Lakers could be the beneficiary.
A lineup with LeBron, Held, Hashimura, AD and Turner could, at least in theory, accomplish much of what made LA champions in 2020.
With Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, this team employed the “LeBron and Shooter” philosophy we’ve seen dominate for years, but can also beat the insiders with lineups that pair Davis with Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee.
Imagine all of the above, plus Turner being able to hit three (something Howard and McKee certainly didn’t offer).
It’s easy to justify sitting out the 2027 and 2029 draft picks. Even with deals for any of the aforementioned potential targets, there’s no guarantee LA will crack the class of contenders.
But at this point in LeBron’s career, you can’t take any single season for granted. He has acquired the front office strength it takes to compete for championships. And while Hachimura’s trade helps, it shouldn’t be the last move the Lakers take.