The 2022-23 NBA trade season is just getting rolling, so let’s go into more detail about which players are on the move ahead of the Feb. 9 deadline.
Monday marked just the second trade since the NBA season tipped off on Oct. 18. The Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a deal to acquire Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks, sources told ESPN on Monday.
Earlier this month, the Boston Celtics sent Noah Vonleh to the San Antonio Spurs to lower their luxury tax bill (Vonleh was immediately waived by San Antonio).
ESPN NBA Insider Kevin Pelton is following the transactions as they happen and is grading all the biggest trades.
MORE: Roster breakdown | Draft assets | Trade deadline coverage
Guard Kendrick Nunn
2023 Chicago second-round pick
2028 second-round pick (less own and Lakers’)
2029 Lakers second-round pick
Los Angeles Lakers: C
Finally, the Lakers have made a trade, although it’s not the blockbuster we’ve been discussing since at least the 2022 trade deadline. Instead, the Lakers are making use of their stockpile of second-round picks to add a player they hope will be part of their long-term future.
Four seasons into his NBA career, the idea of Hachimura’s game has been better than the results. At 6-foot-8, Hachimura is skilled for his size, but his late start with high-level basketball (a native of Japan, Hachimura did not come to the United States before arriving for a redshirt season at Gonzaga, where he played two years) has limited his effectiveness.
In particular, Hachimura hasn’t filed out the box score as well as you’d like. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaged just 1.1 combined steals and blocks this season, putting him 309th among the 369 players with at least 250 minutes this season. Hachimura is also a below-average defensive rebounder and playmaker for a combo forward, leaving him highly dependent on scoring to create value (13 PPG).
Shooting will be the swing skill for Hachimura going forward. He made 45% of his 3s in 43 games during 2021-22, the only season to date where Hachimura’s true shooting percentage has been better than the league average. That’s dropped back to 34% this season, a bit below his career mark of 36%.
On the plus side, Hachimura won’t turn 25 until next month, so there may be further development ahead. His size will be a plus on a Lakers team that has gotten tiny with LeBron James out of the game in Anthony Davis’ absence. James had been the Lakers’ only player capable of playing small forward taller than 6-foot-6.
The most interesting aspect of this deal is Hachimura’s next contract. His $15.6 million cap hold as a restricted free agent this summer would swallow up nearly half of the Lakers’ projected $30-plus million in cap space. The Lakers could reduce that if they sign Hachimura to a deal that starts at a lower value, but as long as he’s re-signed using Bird rights, the Lakers are almost assuredly out of the bidding for a top-tier free agent.
In turn, that could affect the Lakers’ decision-making before the trade deadline. If they’re not using their full cap space, the Lakers may be better off staying over the cap and retaining Bird rights on Russell Westbrook as well as potentially accessing the non-taxpayer midlevel exception, projected at $11.4 million.
Staying over the cap would give the Lakers a better chance of building quality depth than spending all their cap space on a single player and having only the smaller midlevel room (projected at $5.9 million) to offer additional players appreciably more than the minimum. Using cap space to make the Westbrook trade is part of how the Lakers’ depth got so precarious in the first place, after all.
If that’s the direction the Lakers plan to go, it could make sense to deal with 34-year-old guard Patrick Beverley, who is in the final season of his contract. The Lakers could target a younger player that’s either under contract for 2023-24 or they intend to re-sign to a long-term deal like Hachimura.
To their credit, the Lakers made a deal that increases their 2022-23 payroll in pursuit of a playoff spot. Per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, this deal adds a little more than $3 million to the Lakers’ tax bill. Perhaps the Lakers can get more from Hachimura than the Wizards did and make him a long-term piece. Still, for that money and the second-round picks, I would have targeted a player with more proven production.
Washington Wizards: B+
Certainly, this wasn’t the outcome Washington was hoping for with Hachimura, the team’s highest draft pick since 2013 when he was taken No. 9 overall in 2019. With little progress to show from Hachimura’s first three-plus NBA seasons and his free agency looming, cashing out was probably the right play.
The biggest question for the Wizards is whether they’re done dealing. After all, Hachimura wasn’t the team’s most important pending free agent at forward. That’s former Laker Kyle Kuzma, who has outplayed his possible extension value (four years, $70 million, per Marks) and will almost certainly decline a $13 million player option for 2023-24 in favor of testing free agency.
Making a move that slightly reduces team salary (Nunn makes $5.25 million this season, about a million less than Hachimura) gives Washington more wiggle room in constructing future trades without going into the luxury tax, a non-starter for a team two spots out of the play-in tournament. The Wizards now stand $1.4 million below the tax line.
Washington also gets an interesting second-round pick in this year’s draft. The 2028 and 2029 picks are so far out as to be of little value at the moment, but Chicago’s second-rounder would land 39th if the season ended today, a spot where the Wizards could find a quality prospect.
As for Nunn, there may not be a spot for him in Washington’s crowded backcourt at full strength, but he’s quietly played decently in January (10.5 PPG on .572 true shooting percentage) after a dreadful start to the season coming off missing all of 2021 -22 due to a bone bruise in his right knee. Nunn is in the last year of his contract, meaning this trade won’t affect the Wizards’ books going forward.