In the 2017 National Championship against North Carolina, Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura, then a freshman, didn’t log a single minute of action. Two seasons later, Hachimura is primed to play for an NBA franchise in just a few months.
Hachimura announced via Twitter and Instagram Monday afternoon that he has decided to forgo his senior year at GU to enter the draft, because he felt it was the best decision for him and his family.
But with other collegiate stars like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant also in this year’s draft, it’s been hard for people to gauge where Hachimura is likely to land on NBA teams' draft boards.
Bleacher Report’s latest mock draft has Hachimura going outside of the lottery at 21st overall to Oklahoma City, while NBC Sports has him going ninth overall to the Dallas Mavericks, stating that, “Hachimura is mature enough as a player to step in and make an immediate impact.”
So, if his draft stock is fluctuating rapidly, where is it reasonable to see Hachimura end up on draft night?
Despite Bleacher Report saying otherwise, it’s fairly certain Hachimura will be selected in the lottery.
Few players in this year’s class match his 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame while also possessing the same skill set and putting up the numbers he was able to this past season. In 37 games, Hachimura averaged a team-high 19 points on 59.2% shooting.
Along with the scoring frenzy, Hachimura, who was usually the biggest guy on the court for GU, battling against larger power forwards or centers, averaged 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Scouts and NBA executives seem to be largely in agreement that his speed, agility and strength are far more advanced than other players his size, but they’re looking for more than just that in a potential top-14 pick.
NBA teams in that position are often looking for the next game-changer and potential face of a franchise. Hachimura has shown flashes of that, granted, on a smaller scale, here at GU.
With an uptake in minutes each year came an exponential increase in production, which is exactly the type of growth an NBA team wants to see for a developing player like Hachimura. If he made that much progress in three years, while simultaneously becoming accustomed to a new country’s culture and being a full-time student, then it would be reasonable to assume he could make similar strides in the NBA with all his time focused toward basketball.
The biggest critique of Hachimura’s game is his 3-point shooting. As NBA offenses have stretched out to accommodate for the 3-point shot, power forwards and centers have become more efficient from behind the arc. Given that most of Hachimura’s scoring comes from driving in the lane or the post, critics of his game don’t think he’s a competent enough shooter from deep to be a viable asset in the modern NBA.
But he shot 41.7% from 3-point land this season, so he has definitely showcased the ability to make those shots. And his game isn’t built around 3-pointers so he doesn’t take them often, but given his previous percentages from that range, NBA teams can be assured that if he is open and decides to pull up, he will have some success.
Also, given the accolades Hachimura received this year, his prospects of producing in the NBA are high, despite peoples’ doubts on whether or not he’ll find equivocal success in the pros.
He was a John Wooden Award finalist as well as an AP First Team All-American after this season. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett were the only other players to be named to both lists and all three are seen as unanimous top-five picks by a majority of scouts and mock drafts. Given that Hachimura was awarded the same merit as that trio, who’s to say that he doesn’t deserve the same recognition as a potential NBA talent?
So if Hachimura is taken in the lottery then great, that’s where he deserves to be taken, no doubt. But even if he doesn’t and manages to fall to a team that is more in contention for a title, then that team should know that what they got themselves is an impact player who will positively shape the success of that franchise for years to come, just as we experienced with him here at GU.