BOSTON — Even with the recent success of the Gonzaga men’s basketball team, it’s still a program whose best players often fly below the radar when it comes to national notoriety.
But if you drop 20 points while also grabbing seven boards on the way towards an upset win over Duke?
And that is how many view Bulldogs forward Rui Hachimura, whose stock has only risen in the days and months since that win over Duke.
It is to the point where Hachimura has played himself into being one of the first players chosen in next week’s NBA draft, a reality that’s based on the fact that he has been given an invite to the Green Room which is reserved for players pegged to be among the first players selected.
The most likely shot at him being a Boston Celtic will be if he’s on the board for Boston with the No. 14 pick.
At 6-foot-8, 230 pounds, Hachimura has the protypical size of an undersized NBA power forward.
But in today’s small-ball generation, his physical strength along with a 7-2 wingspan will allow him to play against bigger foes. And his dribble-drive game gives him the ability to make bigger defenders pay by getting past them or impose his muscle on smaller defenders by dribbling into the spot he wants to score from and just shoot over the top.
And what most teams love most about him is he’s a high-energy player whose effort — particularly when it comes to crashing the glass — is not an issue.
“Relentless” is how one Western Conference scout described Hachimura when it comes to rebounding before adding, “guys like him with his skills ... that's the future of the NBA.”
But as talented as he is, Hachimura has some shortcomings as well.
The two that jump out are his passing (he averaged just 1.5 assists per game) and defense. Balancing out his ability to at times beat guys off the dribble, has to be a passing game that makes teams pay when they double-team him or devote too much time trying to limit his scoring.
Hachimura must also work to improve his 3-point shooting. While connecting on 41.7 percent of his 3’s does look great, he only averaged 1.0 attempts per game. And with the NBA 3-point line extended from what he’s used to in college, there’s no sense as to whether he’ll adjust appropriately and deliver at a similar clip in the NBA.
And while there are certainly positives and negatives about Hachimura’s game, the one thing that few have doubts about, is whether he’s an NBA player.
But will he be a Celtic?
Stay tuned …
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