Wizards

Wizards

LAS VEGAS -- What the Washington Wizards hope will be a long and decorated career for 2019 first round pick Rui Hachimura will in some ways begin in earnest on Saturday night in Las Vegas, NV as the team kicks off their Summer League schedule against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Hachimura, 21, won't take the floor in a regular season game until the fall, but in Las Vegas he will for the first time suit up as a member of the Wizards in the professional ranks. These games will provide the first look at what he will be as an NBA player as he battles fellow top prospects in the league's annual development league.

Like any draft pick, there is some mystery about what Hachimura will become at the next level. Those questions will begin to be answered in Las Vegas.

One involves his shooting. Hachimura was a gifted scorer in college, but with limited range. He shot 41.7 percent from three his final year at Gonzaga, but on only one attempt per game.

The Wizards hope he can become a more consistent three-point shooter. During the team's mini-camp last week, Hachimura made most of his plays around the rim and in the mid-range, often choosing to put the ball on the floor rather than pull up from the perimeter.

After scrimmages were done, Hachimura took shooting lessons from Wizards player development coach David Adkins. Hachimura proved a quick learner, knocking down shot after shot at the free throw line while testing out a mechanical tweak.

"[We're going over] the basics. Collect my shooting form. He's doing a good job of teaching me. It's very helpful," Hachimura said.

Hachimura should get plenty of shots in the Summer League. Along with 2018 first round pick Troy Brown Jr., he will be one of the team's top scoring options. 

Hachimura should get a solid opportunity in the NBA this fall as well. With the way the Wizards' roster is shaping up, he could be one of their best playmakers. The team will get to see what he's capable of while running their playbook this week.

"It's a lot of stuff," Hachimura said of learning the Wizards' sets. "We have 10-20 plays already."

 

Summer League head coach Robert Pack said the plan is to put Hachimura into as many different situations as they can. He will likely start at power forward, but will play center in small-ball lineups. They will run plays for him in the post and on the perimeter.

Offense is expected to come quickly for Hachimura. It his defense that is the biggest question entering his rookie year. In Las Vegas, the Wizards will get to assign him to some top draft picks, if they want to give him a test. That could include No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson of the Pelicans.

Hachimura's position, though, is a question in itself. Will he be exclusively a stretch-four or is he athletic enough to play some wing? The Summer League will allow the Wizards to experiment and gauge his versatility at this point.

According to Pack, the Wizards will give Hachimura the greenlight to start the fastbreak off rebounds. And if he has an open three, they want him to take it. Now is the time to build confidence from NBA three-point range.

The Summer League can be a valuable time for NBA player development and this year's is the most important the Wizards have had in years. Hachimura is their highest draft pick since Otto Porter Jr. in 2013 and their roster is full of their top prospects like Brown and second round picks Issuf Sanon (2018) and Admiral Schofield (2019).

There is plenty of intrigue for the Wizards in Las Vegas and Hachimura will be at the center of all of it.

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