The 2019 NBA Draft was a weird night for the Wizards faithful.
Armed with the ninth overall pick and Duke star Cam Reddish surprisingly on the board, the Wizards took Rui Hachimura out of Gonzaga. He had a solid reputation as a pick-and-pop power forward with upside on the defensive end, but his draft stock was somewhere in the 10-20 range.
As Hachimura went up to greet Adam Silver and put on a Wizards hat for the first time, Chauncey Billups compared the big man to a young version of two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.https://twitter.com/HoopDistrictDC/status/1141870805502103559?s=20
Young Kawhi or current Kawhi, that was a hot take from Billups. Expectations were going to be high for Hachimura anyway after going ninth overall, but this added unnecessary fuel to the fire.
Before Leonard and the Clippers took on Hachimura's Wizards Sunday night, head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged the comparison.
“I wouldn’t want that," Rivers said to Fred Katz. "That’s too early. Let him be him... But everything I hear about him, forget the basketball part, is that he’s supposed to be a great kid. And that helps.”
While the Leonard comparisons were all but put to bed, Hachimura had a career night against the Clippers Sunday. He finished with 30 points and nine rebounds on 13-23 from the floor and hit 2-of-5 threes.
He's just the third rookie to score 30 points in a game this season and the first Wizards rookie to have 30 points and nine rebounds in a game since Juwan Howard in 1995.
Hachimura may never get to Leonard's level as a player, but there's nothing wrong with that. Few players become all-time greats.
What's clear through his first 18 games is that he's a player the Wizards can keep to build a formidable young core around Bradley Beal and John Wall. As he continues to get his feet under him and stretches his game out to the three-point line, we might be looking at a future All-Star.
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