Rui Hachimura may be an ideal fit for positionless basketball


WASHINGTON -- What might have been a knock on Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura if he entered the league 15 years ago is now arguably one of his biggest strengths.

It is a question, and not necessarily a bad one: is he a three or a four? Is he a small forward or a power forward?

Not long ago, Hachimura may have been called a 'tweener,' a guy without a true position. But in today's era, not having a position can sometimes be a good thing as roles are more fluid than they ever have been in the NBA before.

Hachimura, at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, is the height of a wing but with the power of a big man. He has the speed to play on the perimeter, but the skillset to score on the block.

What it means more than anything is that he could be a match-up problem for opposing teams.

"There's always going to be a guy who really can't guard him guarding him," forward C.J. Miles said. "If you put a wing on him, they're too small. If you put a big on him, they're too slow."

So far through his four career games, we have seen Hachimura score in a variety of ways. He has powered his way to the rim for dunks. He has scored in the midrange, including a fadeaway over noted defender P.J. Tucker of the Rockets on Wednesday night. And, as he showed for the first time in that Rockets game, he can stretch the floor a bit, too.


Hachimura knocked down three three-pointers against Houston, which was more than he ever made in a game in college. Head coach Scott Brooks believes there are a few reasons why that stat was made possible.

"It's different. Coach [Mark] Few [of Gonzaga] knew that you couldn't stop him down low, college defenders. They had smaller players on the floor," Brooks said.

"But with us, he's going to have to step out and make some of those threes and take them. He's been working on them all summer, so that's another good sign of what he's improved on from the time we drafted him in June."

Brooks said Hachimura has the green light to shoot threes whenever he's open. So far, Hachimura has followed that edict, averaging 2.8 three-point attempts per game with the Wizards after taking only one per game his final year in college.

Hachimura has talked about how there is more space in the NBA and how that can play to his advantage. Sharing the floor with shooters like Isaiah Thomas, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans creates open looks for him.

But it's also, as Brooks said, about simply working hard. Hachimura is now seven months removed from his college career. Seven months is a lot of shots in practice.

"I’ve been practicing a lot and I feel confident about it, my threes," Hachimura said.

It is also a common sight after Wizards practices to see Hachimura staying late to break down film on an iPad with coaches. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise he is improving his game this quickly.

Hachimura has found success scoring the ball early in his career, as he's averaging 18 points on 50 percent shooting. Eventually, other teams will adjust and try to take away his strengths.

But the more versatile he can be, the more options he will have to go to when defenders sell out on certain moves. He may not have a defined position, but he also may not need one.