Depending on perspective, the Lakers moved either a step back or a step forward in their quest to claim a playoff spot. Naysayers will argue that their acquisition of Rui Hachimura does not make them any better. It’s precisely this type of trade, critics say, that should be avoided — one that makes them marginally better, if at all, even as they go further north of the salary cap. On the other hand, it’s not as if they had much room to work with in the first place; the fact that they pulled the trigger on the deal means they’re not content with the status quo.
If there’s any consolation to those who believe prudence to the better part of valor, it’s that the Lakers did not have to give up much to take a flyer on Hachimura. Bidding goodbye to Kendrick Nunn, effectively a spare tire, and three second-round picks will not muddle their medium-term outlook. It’s the type of low-risk move that they’re constrained to do while in the fringes, never mind that it’s long on hope and short on certainty. Needless to say, they’re gambling on the possibility of the 2019 ninth overall selection proving true to potential.
No doubt, Hachimura’s arrival should be of benefit to the Lakers. Forget that advanced metrics aren’t kind to him. His mere presence is a boon, if for no other reason than because he adds to their shallow bench at the small forward spot; he’ll get significant burn as a decided upgrade at the three over the likes of undersized Austin Reeves and Troy Brown, Jr. And with Anthony Davis scheduled to be back anytime soon, they’ll certainly be better equipped to handle the size of most of the competition.
Whether Hachimura is of any value beyond the current season remains to be seen, and the Lakers’ decision one way or the other figures to inform their strategy in free agency. In the here and now, however, he’ll be a welcome addition to the purple and gold. Bottom line, LeBron James needs help, pronto, and it’s what he’ll provide.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.