Highlander Hot Take: Rui Hachimura will take home Rookie of the Year honors

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Rui Hachimura made history when he was selected ninth overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2019 NBA draft. Hachimura was the first Japanese player ever to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft, joining Memphis Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe as the only active players from Japan. 

Hachimura should receive plenty of opportunities on the court to make an impact despite being a rookie. All-Star John Wall should be out for most of the 2019-20 season with a ruptured left Achilles. Hachimura can make a claim to be the Wizards second best player, only behind Bradley Beal, and will accumulate solid numbers throughout the season.  

With a 6-foot-9-inch frame, Hachimura has the size and strength to play both forward positions. He has similar measurements to Kawhi Leonard, giving him the physical tools to be dominant on both ends of the floor. While comparing Hachimura to a player of Leonard’s calibre is quite far-fetched, it highlights the ceiling that he can reach if he ever lives up to his potential. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Hachimura can be a pick and roll threat with his athleticism and physical 234-pound frame. During his junior year at Gonzaga, Hachimura averaged 19.7 points per game (ppg) and 6.5 rebounds per game (rpg) on 59% shooting. Hachimura’s ability to score from the midrange and inside will allow for easy buckets both in the half court and in transition. 

In addition to his tenure at Gonzaga, Hachimura also gained valuable experience competing against some NBA calibre players at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Although Japan didn’t fare that well in the tournament, Hachimura was one of the bright spots for Japan. He showed that he could be a leader and that his game from Gonzaga could translate against some of the top players in the world. Hachimura averaged 13.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 2.3 assists per game in only three appearances. While he didn’t play too many games in the tournament, Hachimura showed promise with his athleticism and his ability to score and knock down the midrange jumpshot.  

The competition for rookie of the year honors also just got a bit lighter because Williamson underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on Sunday, Oct. 13, likely sidelining the young star for at least six to eight weeks. Barrett should have plenty of opportunities to contribute immediately but the pressure of playing the New York market might shake up some rookie nerves. 

Hachimura will be ready to contribute big minutes right away for the Wizards because of his three years with Gonzaga and his experience with the Japanese national team. His size, strength and athleticism should allow Hachimura to deliver a strong statline and scoop up the rookie of the year award as well.