Rui Hachimura

Free Agent Stock Watch: Los Angeles Lakers

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents during the 2023 offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Lakers players.

Note: We also covered a couple other Lakers earlier this month.

Dennis Schröder, G

  • 2022/23: Minimum salary
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Up

Before the 2022/23 season started, Schröder said he had “unfinished business” with the Lakers after reportedly being unwilling to discuss a lucrative extension in his first stint with the team a couple of seasons ago. The rumored four-year, $80MM offer was never signed, and Schröder instead inked a one-year, $5.9MM contract with Boston in 2021 free agency.

Despite a tepid market in ’21, I was surprised it took Schröder so long to find a team last offseason. He didn’t sign until September, when he was running the show for Germany during EuroBasket, helping lead his national team to a bronze medal.

A reunion with the Lakers has worked out well for both sides, as Schröder has been one of the league’s better bargains on his minimum-salary contract.

The Lakers had an abysmal start this season in part due to injuries to Schröder and Thomas Bryant, who both underwent thumb surgeries right before the season began. The team went just 3-10 in the 13 games they missed (Bryant was traded to Denver at last month’s deadline).

Since he returned, Schröder has only missed one game and the Lakers have gone 34-28 with him in the lineup. He leads L.A. in total minutes played and the team has been better on both ends of the court when he’s playing — and significantly worse when he’s not. He only trails LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves in net rating differential among players with a large sample size.

I’ve been impressed with Schröder’s point-of-attack defense this season. He has also cut down on his turnovers and has generally just been willing to do the little things necessary to win games. He’s not a great three-point shooter (33.8%), but he remains extremely quick and is a very good ball-handler who can create shots and draw fouls. Schröder is also highly accurate on free throws, converting 87% of his looks this season – an important factor when trying to close out games.

The Lakers only have his Non-Bird rights, so they will be limited to offering the 29-year-old 120% of the veteran’s minimum, which would amount to $3.8MM. If the two sides go that route, it would almost certainly be a one-year deal or a two-year pact with a player option. That would give him Early Bird rights in 2024 and make it easier for the Lakers to give him a more lucrative longer-term contract, if they’re so inclined. They could also give him a bigger raise this summer by using one of their exceptions (either the bi-annual or the mid-level).

Rui Hachimura, F

  • 2022/23: $6.26MM
  • 2023/24: RFA
  • Stock: Down

When the Lakers traded three second-rounders (and Kendrick Nunn) to acquire Hachimura, I don’t think they envisioned him averaging 9.2 points and playing just 22.3 minutes per night, but that’s what he’s put up through 27 games.

The former lottery pick is a talented mid-range scorer, but he’s sort of a one-trick pony in that his game isn’t very well-rounded. His three-point accuracy (33.9%) has been virtually identical to what it was with the Wizards this season (33.7%), which is disappointing.

Hachimura has looked better on defense than I’ve seen in the past, but it’s still merely passable, and he doesn’t always play with a lot of energy. His role has been reduced of late, as he received one healthy scratch and averaged 5.3 PPG and 2.5 RPG in the six contests (16.0 MPG) he did play over the past seven games.

Hachimura’s $7,744,600 qualifying offer isn’t prohibitive, and he’s only 25 years old. Are the Lakers really gung-ho about bringing him back? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see a huge market for him in restricted free agency based on his relative lack of development over his first four NBA seasons. One report said he might get something around the full mid-level exception, which is projected to start at $11.37MM — I would wish him luck and let him walk at that price.

Troy Brown, G/F

  • 2022/23: Minimum salary
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Up

There’s nothing about Brown’s game that really jumps out at you, nor do his modest numbers — he’s averaging 7.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 1.2 APG in 70 games (45 starts, 24.9 MPG).

What Brown provides is prototypical size on the wing at 6’6″ and 215 pounds and a strong understanding of the game. He can do a little bit of everything, but doesn’t stand out in any one particular area. The 23-year-old is shooting a career-high 37.3% from deep, tries hard on defense, and is an unselfish passer.

Despite giving forth solid effort, Brown isn’t the greatest athlete by NBA standards, and is only around league average on defense. He hasn’t been much of a scoring threat, but the Lakers only really ask him to shoot when he’s open.

As with Schröder, Brown is another player the Lakers added on a minimum deal last summer, so unless they use one of their exceptions, they can only offer him 120% of the minimum using his Non-Bird rights – that would be about $2.77MM.

Could he get more than that from another team? I think something in the $3-6MM range could be in play, but I’m not sure. Either way, he has provided positive value considering his compensation this season, and I would imagine there’s motivation from both sides to bring him back – he’s getting regular minutes, which wasn’t the case the past couple seasons.

Malik Beasley, G/F

  • 2022/23: $15.49MM
  • 2023/24: $16.52MM team option
  • Stock: Down

Beasley is a long-range shooting specialist and the Lakers rank just 26th in the league in three-point percentage, which is why they traded for him. The problem is, he’s only shooting 35.6% from deep in 2022/23 (34.7% in 20 games with the Lakers), which is his worst conversion rate since he became a rotation regular in ‘18/19.

The 26-year-old is extremely streaky, and perhaps more than any other player on the team’s roster, he was negatively impacted by James’ absence due to a foot injury. LeBron has always been great at finding open shooters and Beasley has by far the best track record on the team as a high-volume outside shooter, despite his down season and inconsistency.

Free agents D’Angelo Russell and Reaves will likely higher on the team’s priority list this offseason than Beasley, and they won’t be cheap. However, it’s convenient to have mid-size contracts like Beasley’s on the roster, and his specialty is certainly more valuable than Hachimura’s.

How Beasley fares for the rest of the season will likely determine whether the Lakers exercise their team option on his deal, because it’s a hefty price tag considering he doesn’t provide a whole lot else beyond shooting and floor spacing. One report indicated the Lakers were likely to pick the option. They could potentially bring him back at a lower annual cost if they decline it, though there’s always a risk another team could swoop in with a better offer in that scenario.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Russell, Reaves, Beasley, Bamba, Irving

LeBron James likely won’t be back until the final week of the regular season if he returns at all before the playoffs, Jovan Buha of The Athletic said during a discussion about the team with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. James missed his ninth straight game with a right foot injury Wednesday night, but there have been some positive signs regarding his recovery.

Buha notes that James was able to shed his walking boot this week and was seen dribbling the ball and shooting layups during Tuesday’s shootaround. The Lakers have been cautious about releasing information on James, but Buha hears he’s ahead of schedule and will be reevaluated next week.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Buha and Scotto believe D’Angelo Russell and the team have mutual interest in a new contract this summer. The Lakers brought back their former draft pick in a trade last month, and he has been productive apart from injury, averaging 18.8 points and 5.9 assists in the eight games he has played for L.A. The Lakers could have received Mike Conley from the Jazz in the trade, according to Buha, but they opted for Russell because they see him as part of their future. Scotto believes Russell is motivated to succeed with the team that drafted him.
  • The Lakers are hoping to re-sign Austin Reaves, but multiple teams are planning to make a run at him in free agency, Scotto states. L.A. can offer up to $50MM over four years, and Scotto believes his floor will be the mid-level exception. Buha points out that Reaves’ flexibility has been extremely valuable for the Lakers, noting that he has played everywhere from point guard to small forward and brings a high IQ to the game. He adds that the team has to be careful about getting into a situation similar what it did with Alex Caruso, adding that another team might be willing to offer Reaves $12-15MM per season. The Lakers would have the ability to match a higher offer via the Arenas provision.
  • Another free agent, Rui Hachimura, is also likely to get offers in the non-taxpayer MLE range, which will be about $10MM per year, according to Buha. He believes the Lakers are willing to make that offer, but another team may be able to outbid them.
  • General manager Rob Pelinka had been interested in Malik Beasley for some time before acquiring him, so the team is likely to pick up his $16.5MM option for next season, Scotto states. Mohamed Bamba, who has a $10.3MM team option, is more “on the bubble,” Scotto adds, because the Lakers can probably find a more affordable backup center.
  • The Lakers were strongly interested in Kyrie Irving when he asked the Nets for a trade in February, but that seems to have changed in light of their moves at the deadline, Buha adds. He hears that the front office likes the current look of the team and doesn’t plan to pursue Irving in free agency.

Checking In On RFAs-To-Be Who Have Met Starter Criteria

As we explain in a glossary entry, a player who is eligible for restricted free agency at the end of a given season can have the value of his qualifying offer adjusted depending on whether or not he meets the “starter criteria.”

A player is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency.

If a top-14 pick doesn’t meet the starter criteria, he has the value of his qualifying offer adjusted downward and receives a QO equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would get if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.

A player drafted at No. 10  or later can increase the value of his qualifying offer by meeting the starter criteria.

Players drafted between 10th and 30th who meet the starter criteria receive a QO equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale, while second-round picks or undrafted free agents who meet the criteria receive a QO equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.

In simplified terms, here’s how those rules will apply in 2022/23:

  • A top-14 pick who falls short of the starter criteria will have a qualifying offer worth $7,744,600.
  • A player picked between No. 10 and No. 30 who meets the starter criteria will have a qualifying offer worth $8,486,620.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted free agent who meets the starter criteria will have a qualifying offer worth $5,216,324.

A qualifying offer is essentially a one-year contract offer that functions as a placeholder if the player doesn’t accept it. If a player is considered a good bet to sign a lucrative long-term contract, a slight adjustment to his qualifying offer generally has no material impact on his free agency.

However, a change in a qualifying offer can sometimes be a difference maker. The best recent example of this came in 2020, when then-Bulls guard Kris Dunn met the starter criteria, ensuring that his qualifying offer would be worth $7,091,457 instead of $4,642,800.

The Bulls opted not to extend that $7MM+ QO, making him an unrestricted free agent, and he ended up signing a two-year, $10MM contract with Atlanta. If Dunn hadn’t met the starter criteria, it’s possible Chicago would’ve been more comfortable issuing a $4.6MM qualifying offer, which would’ve significantly changed the way Dunn’s free agency played out.

So far in 2022/23, three players have met the starter criteria:

Washington was the 12th overall pick in 2019 and will therefore have his qualifying offer bumped up to $8,486,620.

As second-round picks in 2020 and 2021, respectively, Jones and Dosunmu will now have QOs worth $5,216,324.

Here are some more players eligible for restricted free agency this summer whose qualifying offers can – or will – be impacted by the starter criteria:

(* Player has a team option for 2023/24)

White, Hayes, Hachimura, and Langford have no realistic path to meeting the starter criteria this season, so if their teams want to make them restricted free agents this summer, the qualifying offer cost will be $7,744,600. Johnson could join them in that group, though he has started 20 games so far this season and Brooklyn still has 23 contests left, so he still has a shot to make 41 starts as long as he stays healthy and the Nets don’t move him to the bench.

Thybulle and Williams are the only two non-lottery first-round picks who will be RFA-eligible later this year and still have a chance to meet the starter criteria, bumping their QOs to $8,486,620.

It’s probably a long shot for Thybulle, who has made 59 starts since the beginning of 2021/22 — the Trail Blazers only have 23 games remaining, so Thybulle would have to start every single one of them to get to 82 total starts (an average of 41) over the last two seasons.

Williams has a clearer path to get there. He has logged 1,651 minutes so far this season, averaging 27.5 per game. The Celtics play 21 more times this season and Williams would have to play 349 more minutes (16.6 per night) to reach the 2,000-minute threshold. That seems likely as long as he stays off the injured list.

Jones, Martin, and Marshall belong in a different group. All three players have team options on their contracts for 2023/24, so their clubs could simply exercise those options and not have to worry about restricted free agency this year. That’s absolutely what will happen in Jones’ case, since he’ll still be RFA-eligible in 2024.

Martin and Marshall, however, would be on track for unrestricted free agency in 2024 if their team options for next season are picked up — the Rockets and Pelicans could decide to decline this options this summer and negotiate with their players as restricted free agents instead, giving them more control over the process. Houston took this route last summer with Jae’Sean Tate.

With that in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on whether Martin and/or Marshall will reach the starter criteria and bump their potential QOs to $5,216,324 (from approximately $2.3MM). Martin, who has been in the Rockets’ starting five since mid-January, would need to start 15 of the team’s last 23 games to get there. It’s a more difficult path for Marshall, who would need to average 29.6 minutes per game in the Pelicans’ final 21 contests to get to 2,000 minutes on the season.

Lakers Notes: 2023 FAs, Russell, Hachimura, Bamba

The majority of the players the Lakers acquired prior to this month’s trade deadline aren’t owed guaranteed money beyond this season, so the team still has the flexibility to generate a significant amount of cap room this summer, if necessary. However, the expectation from rival executives is that the Lakers will operate over the cap and bring back most – or all – of the players they traded for, writes Sean Deveney of

“They would never have given up that (2027 first-round) pick unless they planned to make some long-term investments,” one general manager told Deveney. “They were willing to trade it but they needed some guys just heading into their primes to convince them to give it up.

“Now they’ve got (D’Angelo) Russell, they’ve got (Jarred) Vanderbilt, they’ve got Malik Beasley, plus (Rui) Hachimura, Austin Reaves. We’ll see what they do with Mo Bamba, too. That’s a base of young players that they did not have before, you know, guys who are (in their) mid-20s. They’re going to keep those guys in place. They’re all-in on paying those guys.”

Here’s more on the Lakers’ present and future:

  • The GM who spoke to Deveney thinks the floor for Russell on his next contract will be $70MM over three years. Another executive believes that the 27-year-old guard, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, will get something in the range of Anfernee Simons‘ four-year, $100MM deal.
  • Russell, who sprained his right ankle on Thursday, is listed as doubtful to play on Sunday in Dallas, but may not have a lengthy absence — he’s considered day-to-day, per head coach Darvin Ham (Twitter links via Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN’s Dave McMenamin).
  • Sources tell Deveney that the Lakers may look to re-sign Hachimura on a contract similar to the one Kyle Kuzma got from the team in 2020 ($39MM over three years). “He wanted something around $20 million (per year) from the Wizards and they were never going that high,” a Western Conference executive said of Hachimura. “He has to be a little humbled by this season because he just didn’t make that jump he expected to make—he can’t shoot and if you can’t shoot as a wing in the NBA, you’re in trouble. So, I’d expect him to get three years, with an option. Something like $13-14 million, that way he is still a good trade asset going forward or he is going to be a guy who becomes a huge bargain.”
  • That same Western exec seems high on Bamba, suggesting that the big man’s $10.3MM team option for next season is a relative bargain and that there’s “still a lot of trade value on him.” It’s an interesting assessment, given that Bamba’s playing time dipped in Orlando this season after he signed that contract and the exec acknowledges the Lakers “got him for almost nothing” from the Magic.

Trade Breakdown: Rui Hachimura To The Lakers

This is the first entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into a deal between the Lakers and Wizards

On January 23, the Lakers sent Kendrick Nunn, the Bulls’ 2023 second-round pick, a 2028 second-round pick, and their own 2029 second-round pick to the Wizards in exchange for Rui Hachimura.

The Lakers’ perspective:

After missing the entire 2021/22 season with a somewhat mysterious knee injury (it was described as a bone bruise), Nunn picked up his $5.25MM player option for the 2022/23 season and Los Angeles had high hopes for his return to action.

Unfortunately, he had a miserable start to the season, averaging just 5.2 PPG, 1.1 RPG and 0.9 APG on .365/.308/.923 shooting through 29 games (11.5 MPG). Nunn’s primary skill is his ability to score, and he wasn’t having much success at it.

Entering the season, the Lakers had six players on their roster who primarily played guard: Nunn, Dennis Schröder, Austin Reaves, Russell Westbrook, Lonnie Walker and Patrick Beverley. Of the six, only Walker (6’4″) and Reaves (6’5″) are taller than 6’3″. Nunn was last among the group on depth chart.

Head coach Darvin Ham had to cobble together some extremely small lineups due to the team’s flawed roster construction – Schröder, Westbrook, Walker and Beverley were third through seventh on the team in minutes per game at the time of this trade, trailing only LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

At the two forward spots, the Lakers had Troy Brown Jr., Max Christie and Juan Toscano-Anderson, all of whom are 6’6″. Wenyen Gabriel (6’9″) has played both power forward and center. And then James (6’9″) at power forward.

Obviously, size, strength and athleticism was needed with such a small roster. Trading away Nunn was no big loss, as he was 13th on the team in minutes per game and shared too much overlap with the team’s glut of guards.

Enter Hachimura, who stands 6’8″ and weighs 230 pounds. While some have labeled the 25-year-old a wing, he has been more of a power forward who can slide down to the three at times to this point in his career.

As with Nunn, Hachimura’s primary NBA skill is his ability to get buckets. He is a strong mid-range scorer who likes playing out of the triple-threat position in isolation. He can drive both ways and particularly favors a spinning baseline fadeaway over his right shoulder.

Hachimura is also a strong transition player, using his athleticism to get to the rim in the open court. He can finish with both hands in those scenarios and it’s difficult for defenders to handle a player with his size and strength while backpedaling.

As has been repeated ad nauseam, the Lakers needed more three-point shooting and defense on top of the other roster flaws. Hachimura doesn’t help much with either of those issues.

After shooting 31.3% from deep on low volume over his first two seasons, Hachimura made a blistering 44.7% of his attempts from beyond the arc on slightly higher volume last season, giving hope that he was turning the corner on that front. He’s back down to 32.5% in ‘22/23, including 28.6% in 11 games as a Laker, making last season’s success look like an outlier.

While Hachimura’s outside shooting may have regressed, he does have a nice one-dribble pull-up jump shot when defenders chase him off the line. His efficiency would certainly improve if he could turn that dribble into a side-step three-pointer instead of a long two, but he converts the twos at a higher clip right now.

Defensively, Hachimura is solid one-on-one, particularly against bigger wings and power forwards. He struggles in other aspects on that end, however, as he frequently lacks off-ball awareness, isn’t a great rebounder (he doesn’t box out), and isn’t a play-maker (his steal and block rates are alarmingly low for a player with his physical attributes).

Having said that, the cost to acquire the former lottery pick wasn’t prohibitive, and he definitely has talent. The Bulls’ 2023 second-round pick would be No. 37 at the moment, so that has solid value. The other two second-rounders are several years down the road, so there’s plenty of time for the Lakers to rebuild their draft capital (there’s also typically at least a couple second-round picks for sale in every draft – that’s how they acquired Christie, the 19-year-old rookie).

I liked the fact that the Lakers made the trade two-plus weeks before the February 9 deadline, as that allows them to get a better look at Hachimura and gives him more time to get acclimated to the team. He has already played 11 games for the Lakers, so he could play nearly half of their games if he stays healthy.

Hachimura will be a restricted free agent in the summer if he’s tendered a qualifying offer worth a projected $7.7MM, giving L.A. additional options when compared to Nunn, who will be an unrestricted free agent. For what the Lakers gave up, they shouldn’t feel committed to giving Hachimura a long-term contract unless they’re happy with his play and believe in his upside.

The Wizards’ perspective:

It’s worth noting that Nunn had been playing pretty well at the end of his Lakers tenure, getting playing time due to injuries to Walker and Reaves. He averaged 11.0 PPG and 2.4 RPG on .478/.354/.625 shooting over his final 10 games (19.6 MPG) with L.A.

That has carried over to the Wizards, and he’s been a useful reserve for a team that needed backcourt depth and bench scoring. Through 11 games (18.4 MPG) with the Wizards, Nunn is averaging 8.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG and 2.7 APG on .487/.400/.900 shooting.

In addition to the second-rounders, the Wizards gained a little bit of financial flexibility, saving about $1MM and moving further away from the luxury tax line.

They didn’t end up using the flexibility in a subsequent trade, but it will come in handy if they want to give two-way player Jordan Goodwin a multiyear standard contract. Washington could use a leftover portion of its mid-level exception to offer Goodwin a three- or four-year deal and a starting salary above his minimum without going into the tax.

It’s easy to bemoan the Wizards seemingly selling low on a former No. 9 overall pick, and it’s certainly fair to say that they don’t have a strong track record of player development. But both of those points gloss over the fact that things just weren’t working out for Hachimura in D.C.

Hachimura has had extended absences in each of his four seasons, missing at least 15 games per year, and was reportedly unhappy with his role. It’s hard to envision how he would have fit in long-term, given his distinct strengths and weaknesses.

When I wrote about Hachimura prior to the trade, I said he plays with a “physical edge offensively.” That take was mostly based on his first two seasons, but after watching him play more in preparation for this article, I would say it’s mostly inaccurate.

Hachimura does use his footwork, size and strength to draw fouls on occasion, and he’s good at it, but more often than not he shies away from contact, which is somewhat perplexing. He has certainly been better at playing more aggressively on the Lakers, but he frequently settled for jump shots with the Wizards even when he had a size advantage.

One thing I haven’t touched on yet is Hachimura’s passing, or lack thereof. He has taken 421 field goal attempts in ‘22/23 and dished out 41 assists, which is not ideal. The combo forward doesn’t see the floor very well and is regularly a beat slow making reads.

He doesn’t turn the ball over much, but the main reason for that is he just doesn’t look to pass even in situations where teammates are wide open. I could see that being frustrating for both the team and teammates.

There’s often a sunk-cost fallacy when it comes to players who were selected early in drafts. As painful as I’m sure it was for the Wizards to admit it, I believe it was clearly time for both sides to move on.

Wizards president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard said after the deal that it was partly motivated by a desire to give more responsibility and playing time to Deni Avdija, the third-year forward who was the No. 9 overall pick a year after Hachimura.

In 12 games (28.2 MPG) post-trade, Avdija has arguably enjoyed his most productive stretch in the NBA, averaging 13.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.4 SPG on .469/.350/.740. He doesn’t have Hachimura’s scoring upside, but his game is more well-rounded and is a smoother fit on the Wizards’ roster.

All in all, I think it was a reasonable trade from both sides. I’m sure the Wizards would have liked to have gotten a first-round pick in exchange for Hachimura, even if it was a late first-rounder, but the market just wasn’t there. As for the Lakers, it turned out to be one of multiple deals they made in an effort to reshape their roster – we’ll cover the rest in subsequent articles.

Lakers Notes: Roster Shakeup, Westbrook, Irving, Buyout Market

The Lakers are still hoping to climb out of 13th place and reach the playoffs, but the recent roster overhaul was made with an eye on the future, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. In a conference call with media members on Saturday, general manager Rob Pelinka said the front office focused on adding shooting, floor spacing, size and wing depth.

L.A. made four deals dating back to January 23, adding Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mohamed Bamba and Davon Reed. All six players are 27 or younger, and they’re under some form of team control beyond this season.

The Lakers can make Hachimura a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer expected to be worth $7.7MM. Russell will be unrestricted, but he’s eligible for an extension through June 30. L.A. holds a $16.5MM team option on Beasley for next season, while Vanderbilt has a partial guarantee on his contract and Bamba and Reed have non-guaranteed deals.

“I think a deep dive into this, you can almost look at it as ‘pre-agency,’” Pelinka said. “… We very intentionally planned these moves to provide optionality in July. Some of these players have team options or team-controlled years on their contracts, which again gives us the ability to see how these last 26 regular-season games and how potential postseason games go. And then we can go into this offseason with a higher collection of data points, and sort of a real-time analysis of how the pieces fit and make decisions for the future.”

Buha has more on the Lakers:

  • Pelinka admitted on the conference call that trading Russell Westbrook was probably the best move for both sides. He said the Lakers originally acquired Westbrook in hopes of returning to title contention, adding that the polarizing guard shouldn’t be blamed for the team’s disappointing performance. “I think it’s really unfair to put the last year and a half, or whatever period of time that is, on one player,” Pelinka said. “I think the whole roster has to come together and fit. And part of sports sometimes is if things aren’t working, you have to fix them.” 
  • Pelinka didn’t specifically address the Lakers’ rumored pursuit of Kyrie Irving, but he did indicate that the front office was aggressive with its 2027 and 2029 first-round picks in its effort to upgrade the roster. L.A. wound up parting with its 2027 first-rounder (top-four protected) in the deal that sent Westbrook to Utah.
  • The Lakers still have a roster opening, but Pelinka hasn’t decided how aggressively he will pursue buyout candidates. “If we see the right opportunity to fill a need in the buyout market, we will take a look at that,” he said. “But I don’t want to definitively say that we’ll sign another player. We feel like these 14 players fill a need that (head coach Darvin Ham) was looking to fill, and he was excited about these 26 games we have to coach these 14 guys.”

Pacific Notes: Hachimura, Irving, Durant, Fox

Lakers combo forward Rui Hachimura is comfortably slotting in to his new role with the club, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. The athletic 6’8″ forward has become a solid fast-breaking force for Los Angeles so far.

His length, size and speed are massive attributes for a team desperately bereft of those components.

“[Russell Westbrook and LeBron James] get all the defensive attention so I have a lot of easy looks, in either transition of the half court,” Hachimura said. “So, yeah, I love playing with those guys.” 

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Prior to his eventual move to the Mavericks, the Lakers had conversations with the Nets about a framework for a Kyrie Irving trade, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Woj reveals that Brooklyn prioritized the Dallas trade offer because it gave them better role-player depth than Los Angeles could offer, in addition to similar future draft equity.
  • Now that Irving is off the Brooklyn roster, the Suns are hoping to make a legitimate trade offer for the Nets’ lone remaining All-Star, power forward Kevin Durant, sources inform Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). There’s no indication that Brooklyn is willing to listen on Durant at this point — if that changes, plenty of other suitors figure to join the Suns.
  • With Warriors All-Star guard Stephen Curry likely to be sidelined for multiple weeks due to a leg injury, commissioner Adam Silver may have to select an injury replacement for the All-Star Game. Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee tweets that Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox deserves to receive serious consideration for that spot.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Hachimura, Pelinka, Walker, Reaves

The Lakers are using Anthony Davis off the bench in his return to action tonight after he missed five-and-a-half weeks with right foot issues, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. It marks just the sixth time in Davis’ career that he will be a reserve and the first since the 2013/14 season. Team doctors gave him clearance to play after watching his pre-game warmup.

“I’m happy for him, first and foremost,” coach Darvin Ham said. “I know how frustrating this process has been for him, especially at the level at which he was playing. I’m just happy for him, and definitely happy for us. We’ll get him out there, we won’t go too crazy with his minutes, and see how he responds.”

Davis will be kept on a restriction for a while, expected to begin at about 20-24 minutes per game. Ham told reporters he plans to arrange Davis’ playing time so he’s available late in the fourth quarter in case games are close. He also expressed confidence that Davis is fully ready to return after completing rehab.

“He’s gone through some rigorous therapy, weight training, weight-bearing exercises, activity on the court — both individually and some group workouts,” Ham said. “We would save him from himself if we thought there was any type of threat or harm that he could do to himself. So he had these boxes that he had to check, and he’s checked all of them. So we feel comfortable with him appearing tonight.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Newly acquired Rui Hachimura should take minutes away from Troy Brown, Wenyen Gabriel and Juan Toscano-Anderson in the Lakers’ frontcourt, Jovan Buha of The Athletic states in a discussion with fellow Athletic writer Josh Robbins about Monday’s trade. Buha sees Hachimura as an upgrade in terms of size and athleticism, though Robbins cautions that he focused too much on scoring with the Wizards and didn’t develop other parts of his game.
  • After the Hachimura deal, vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said the Lakers will only consider trading their 2027 or 2029 first-round picks if the deal makes them a championship “front-runner,” but Buha observes in a separate story that there doesn’t appear to be an available trade that would do that. Pelinka promised that the team will remain active in the trade market, but Buha doesn’t believe expectations should be high.
  • Lonnie Walker and Austin Reaves will both be reevaluated Friday before the Lakers leave on a five-game road trip, tweets Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Walker, who was listed as questionable for tonight’s game, has left knee tendinitis, while Reaves is recovering from a strained left hamstring.

Lowe’s Latest: Hart, Hachimura, Crowder, D. Green, T. Davis, More

Trail Blazers forward Josh Hart “is a name that is very, very hot right now,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said in the latest episode of his Lowe Post podcast.

In a conversation with ESPN colleague Bobby Marks about Portland’s possible approach to this season’s trade deadline, Lowe stated that there are “a lot” of teams around the NBA who would like Hart, specifically citing Miami as a possible suitor since the 27-year-old is a “Heat kind of guy.”

Hart is playing a crucial role this season for the Blazers. In addition to starting all 45 games he has played, he’s averaging 34.0 minutes per contest and ranks third on the team in total minutes played (1,530). However, his contract situation has made him the subject of trade speculation — he holds a player option on his contract for 2023/24, so he could become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Here’s more from Lowe and Marks:

  • Both Marks and Lowe have heard rumblings that the Wizards and Rui Hachimura had discussions prior to the season about a rookie scale extension worth in the neighborhood of $12MM annually, but Hachimura opted to play out his contract year. The forward was traded to Los Angeles on Monday, so the Lakers will have to find common ground with him in free agency if they intend to keep him beyond this season.
  • A source from a team with interest in Jae Crowder told Lowe that the Suns are seeking two of the following three things in exchange for the veteran forward: A first-round pick, a good young player, and a solid rotation player. Both Marks and Lowe are skeptical about Phoenix’s chances to get that sort of return, with Lowe remarking that the asking price is why Crowder is still a Sun.
  • Lowe keeps hearing that the Grizzlies love Danny Green‘s locker room presence and don’t want to trade him. Green is on track to make his season debut next Wednesday.
  • In a discussion about possible deadline moves for the Kings, Lowe said that he’s not sure guard Terence Davis is “loving his playing time” this season and suggested that Davis could be a trade chip. The fourth-year guard is averaging a career-low 12.7 minutes per contest.
  • Echoing a recent report from Marc Stein, Lowe indicated that the Hornets appear motivated to hang onto forward P.J. Washington and re-sign him as a restricted free agent this offseason rather than moving him at the deadline.
  • Lowe believes the Clippers are a good bet to make a deadline move, but suggests it might be more around the edges than anything major, since the team is reluctant to move Terance Mann and doesn’t have many movable first-round picks left.

Rory Maher contributed to this post.

Anthony Davis Set To Return On Wednesday

Lakers star Anthony Davis is on track to make his return from a foot injury on Wednesday night, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

According to McMenamin, Davis intends to suit up in Los Angeles against the Spurs as long as he doesn’t experience any setbacks in his pregame warmups.

Davis has been sidelined since December 16 due to a bone spur and stress reaction in his right foot. The Lakers, who were 12-16 when Davis went down, have held their own without one of their two superstars available, going 10-10 in their last 20 games and remaining very much in the play-in hunt.

At 22-26, the Lakers are 13th in the Western Conference, but they’re only three games back of the fifth-seeded Clippers.

As McMenamin outlines, the plan on Wednesday is for Davis to be on a restriction of about 20-to-24 minutes. The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Saturday in Boston, so the team will have a couple days off to assess how the big man’s foot responds to his return to action.

In addition to getting Davis back, the Lakers will have more reinforcements in their frontcourt when they host the Spurs — newly acquired forward Rui Hachimura will be available to make his debut with his new team, head coach Darvin Ham told McMenamin and other reporters on Tuesday.

With Davis just coming off a major injury and Hachimura working on getting acclimated to a new situation, the Lakers’ rotation on Wednesday will be a work in progress. According to a previous report, the plan is for Hachimura to join the starting frontcourt alongside Davis and LeBron James, but that may not happen right away.