Rui Hachimura

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Bradley Beal thinks Rui Hachimura will be a small forward long-term

Bradley Beal thinks Rui Hachimura will be a small forward long-term

Whether it actually matters is debatable, but what position Rui Hachimura best profiles for long-term has been a point of contention among fans and media members ever since he was drafted by the Wizards ninth overall last summer. He is what not long ago would be described as a 'tweener,' or somewhat of a cross between a small forward and a power forward.

Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal has put some thought into it and has now weighed in. He thinks Hachimura will be a small forward.

"Honestly, I think Rui is going to end up being a three. When his career is over with, he's going to end up playing the three," Beal explained during Sunday's Wizards-Nets broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

"I don't know what that's going to look like next year or what we're going to jump to, but you can see spurts of it. You can see he can handle the ball, he's comfortable with handling the ball. Obviously, we can improve that and make that better. He shoots the three comfortably."

That last point could probably be picked apart a bit and it does hold some importance in the argument. If Hachimura is indeed going to be a small forward, he will need to add some perimeter skills to his game.

Three-point shooting would be included in there and so far there certainly seems to be room for improvement. This season, he is shooting just 27 percent from three on 1.7 attempts per game. 

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In the three games the Wizards have played in Orlando, Hachimura is 0-for-1 from long range. He didn't attempt any threes at all in their first two games of the restart.

The reason why it is an interesting debate is Hachimura doesn't fit the traditional norms for either the three or four position. And that could be a good thing, as former teammate C.J. Miles pointed out in November. When you don't match up perfectly with opponents in any specific position, sometimes that means you are a mismatch for anyone who is guarding you.

Beal himself went on to rave about Hachimura's versatility.

"He's super athletic, so he can use his size to post up. So, the versatility is there. It's just a matter of what we want to mold him into," Beal said. "I think the sky's the limit. He has the ability, he has the work ethic, so I'm definitely excited to see."

RELATED: NBA PLAYERS BRING UP KAWHI COMPARISONS DESPITE RUI'S ROUGH GAME

Hachimura not having a true position could be an advantage. What the Wizards will need to determine, however, is how to complement his skillset with other players as they continue to build their roster. 

Whether Hachimura is a three, a four or even a small-ball five, the best way to maximize his strengths will be to fill in the gaps around him. Putting a rim protector alongside him, for instance, would allow him to roam and switch on defense. Having teammates who space the floor will create openings in the midrange, where he is very effective scoring the ball.

Those involve more important questions than what position Hachimura will ultimately be defined by. But it's still a fun debate to have and now even Beal has been drawn into it.

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NBA players resurface Kawhi Leonard comparison for Rui Hachimura despite rough outing vs. Nets

NBA players resurface Kawhi Leonard comparison for Rui Hachimura despite rough outing vs. Nets

Rui Hachimura had a game to forget Sunday against the Nets. 

He scored nine points on 2-of-9 shooting and took just two shots in the first half of the Wizards' second straight loss in NBA bubble play. It was a polar-opposite performance compared to his 21-point, eight-rebound outing against the Suns Friday, but several NBA vets spoke highly of him on Twitter after the game, including his teammate Bradley Beal. 

Jared Dudley got the ball rolling by bringing up the infamous Kawhi Leonard comparison linked to Hachimura on draft night last June.

"[Hachimura] has a lot of Kawhi in his game!" Dudley wrote. "Super skilled, tough, and aggressive! Wizards found themselves a young star in the future."

RELATED: 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS VS. NETS

Beal quickly endorsed Dudley's claims, while former Wizards Isaiah Thomas and Caron Butler piled on the Hachimura love. 

As promising a young player as Hachimura is, it's incredibly hard to say his name in the same sentence as Kawhi Leonard. I mean, we're talking about a two-time Finals MVP and one of the best players in the world. Leonard was also a raw, defense-first wing where Hachimura came out of college as a mid-range scorer who played primarily as a big in college. 

But still, Beal, Dudley, Thomas and Butler aren't saying Hachimura is going to be Leonard, rather he has some of Leonard in his game today. His blend of size and skill give should give the Wizards a ton of two-way versatility as he continues to polish off his game, though I must disagree with those who think Hachimura should play the three. I'd rather see Hachimura play up a position to center than down one to small forward, especially as the league drifts further toward small ball. 

Whether he can be a version of Leonard or not remains to be seen, though he'll have plenty of time to iron out some more rookie growing pains over the next six games and Washington's franchise player certainly believes in him. Sometimes, that's all a player needs. 

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5 takeaways from Wizards-Nets, including Thomas Bryant's huge game

5 takeaways from Wizards-Nets, including Thomas Bryant's huge game

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 118-110 on Sunday afternoon in Orlando, FL. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

Playoff hopes are vanishing

The Wizards' time in Orlando was always going to be about player development more than anything and that is now officially going to be the case, as by losing to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, their playoff hopes have all but disappeared.

They not only lost to the Suns on Friday, their worst opponent in the restart, but fell to Brooklyn who is also not good and presented their only chance to directly help their cause. With an 0-2 start in Orlando, they are now 24-42 on the year.

Now it will take a Disney World miracle for them to make the postseason as they sit seven games back in the playoff picture, needing to get within four just to force a play-in tournament. That means the Wizards would have to go at a minimum 3-3 the rest of the way and their schedule is daunting. If the Wizards went 3-3, the Nets would have to finish 0-6.

That's okay, though, because this time is all about developing the young players for next season. And preserving their draft lottery odds, which are currently ninth-best, would not be the worst thing.

But now the NBA's new lottery rule is going to come into focus. With this loss, the Wizards are now tied with the Hornets for the eighth-most losses in the NBA. The league, however, has locked the bottom-eight teams into their lottery positions. So, the Wizards have a distinct possibility where they could have worse lottery odds than a team with a better record than theirs.

Bryant balled out

Head coach Scott Brooks highlighted two players he wanted to see step up in this game after their debuts against the Suns on Friday: Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. Both did exactly that.

First, on Bryant. He had a tough time against DeAndre Ayton of Phoenix and it didn't get much easier in this one with Jarrett Allen in the paint. But Bryant opened up his offensive game by knocking down three-pointers and, as Brooks was hoping, he brought more energy to the game.

That was evident in the first half when Brown found him for an open dunk, one that pushed the Wizards to an 11-2 lead and forced a Nets timeout. Bryant screamed into the air as he hung on the rim. It was reminiscent of the emotion he usually shows during games which is often boosted by the fans. Now, with no fans in the crowd, maybe it has affected him. But he looked like the animated version of Bryant we are used to in this game.

Bryant came through with a monster performane in the box score. He had 18 points and seven rebounds by halftime and ended up with 30 points (one off his career-high) and 13 boards. He shot 4-for-6 from three. He also had two blocks. 

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All in all, it was exactly what the Wizards want to see from their young big man.

Brown stepped up

The other T.B. had a very good game himself and he too showed improvement from the opener. Brown had 15 points against the Suns, but was otherwise a no-show in the box score, which is uncharacteristic for him as he is known for his versatility and ability to rack up assists and rebounds.

This game was much more familiar. Brown was all over the place against Brooklyn, putting up 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, flirting with what was nearly his first career triple-double. 

Brown was decisive and aggressive, particularly on the fastbreak where would ignite the Wizards' offense in transition. But perhaps most telling was a first-half three-point shot he made, where he pulled up in the halfcourt from several feet behind the line. It displayed confidence in an area where he hasn't had consistent success so far in his career. What it reflected is that he is embracing his role as a primary scoring option and willing to look for his own shot when otherwise he might defer to Bradley Beal or other veteran teammates.

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Rui struggled

While Bryant and Brown took steps in the right direction, Rui Hachimura did not. The Wizards' rookie had a dreadful first half with only two points on 0-for-2 shooting. It was an unusual sight considering he has been much more consistent this season than his experience would suggest. He also played very well on Friday.

Hachimura also had a play that harkened back to some of his more teachable moments of the season. It was in the first half when he tried to score on a baby hook in the lane, only to get blocked into oblivion by Allen. Brooks has remarked many times this year how Hachimura has to go up stronger, how he can't get away with the plays around the rim that worked for him in college. This was a good example of that learning curve.

Hachimura, to his credit, turned the tide in the second half. He came out more aggressive and finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists.

Consistency

Seesaw performances are probably to be expected as the Wizards play out their season in Orlando, given most of their roster is comprised of young and unproven players. The difference between those who fizzle out of the NBA quickly and those who carve out long careers is often consistency. Which of the Wizards' prospects can achieve it will say a lot about their future roles on the team.

Isaac Bonga and Moe Wagner struggled in this one, for example. Bonga, who shined during the exhibition schedule, had four points and was a -9 in the box score. Wagner had two points in seven minutes and was essentially benched for Anzejs Pasecniks in the second half.

The good news is that there are at least six games left for them to respond and how they do will say plenty. The problem is that after this game, the schedule will turn pretty brutal with a gauntlet of playoff teams awaiting them.

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