Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Wizards have found another pillar as they aim to someday build a nice, big and beautiful house. Exactly how good Rui Hachimura will be someday is far from being clear, but through two games it is already sufficiently evident he is a legitimate building block for the future.

Yep, two games. That may not sound like much, but what he has done so far has already checked off several boxes that suggest he will have a long and productive career in the NBA, barring health.

He can score, he can rebound and he plays smart on both ends. He's also athletic enough and physically developed enough to hold his own against NBA competition.

In some ways, it makes sense Hachimura would translate quickly to the professional ranks. He played three years in college and entered the league at 21 years old. This isn't a one-and-done, 19-year-old lottery ticket who was drafted solely based on potential. He entered the league with the expectations of a high floor. The question for him is his ceiling.

But there is translating quickly to the NBA and then there is what Hachimura has done through two games. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds in his debut on Wednesday and then 19 points and five boards against the Thunder on Friday.

Sure, those aren't All-Star numbers, but consider just how hard it is to both score and rebound right away in the NBA. He is just the fifth player in the last 10 years to have at least 30 points and 15 rebounds through two games and just the ninth player in the last 20 years.

 

The list of players who had 30 and 15 through two games is good company to be in. It's players like LeBron James, Karl-Anthony Towns, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Lauri Markkanen.

Hachimura's 33 points are tied for the fourth-most by any rookie through two games in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. The only three ahead of him are Walt Bellamy (58), John Wall (42) and Earl Monroe (38). Bellamy and Monroe are Hall of Famers and Wall has made five All-Star teams.

Hachimura has proven several things beyond the primary stats most players are judged by. He also has only one turnover, which goes to show his basketball IQ on the offensive end. The Mavericks and Thunder are both above average defensive teams, too.

Hachimura has also backed up the claims by head coach Scott Brooks and others that he is a quick learner and doesn't make the same mistake twice. Against the Thunder, twice Chris Paul pulled the chair out from under him in the post. The first time, Hachimura lost his balance and nearly fell to the floor. The second time, he used his forearm to feel where Paul was while backing him down and was able to stay upright.

Now, it has only been two games and it has by no means been perfect. Hachimura, for instance, is 0-for-7 from three. And not only has he missed them, in many cases he has been essentially dared to shoot by the defense. Teams won't respect his outside shot until he makes them.

But the early returns for Hachimura, the ninth overall pick, have been thoroughly impressive. He at the very least looks like a legitimate NBA rotation player right off the bat. He appears to have the potential to at a minimum be a starting-caliber player in the league.

Whether he will ultimately ascend to Wall and Bradley Beal's level as a franchise player, or if he will fall short of the All-Star tier and just be a solid rotation player like Otto Porter Jr. or Kelly Oubre Jr., we will see. But he's already doing things most rookies in Wizards/Bullets history have not done to this point.

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