NBA Hoops

Lakers’ acquisition of Rui Hachimura could limit free-agent flexibility

Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura (8) in action during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Washington. The Knicks won 112-108. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Los Angeles Lakers traded Kendrick Nunn and three second-round draft picks to the Washington Wizards for forward Rui Hachimura in a deal Monday that will certainly bolster the Lakers now, but also limit the franchise’s flexibility later, particularly any starry ideas for this upcoming free agency.

The Lakers were exploring options for what Nunn and two second-rounders could have netted Los Angeles to supplement LeBron James’ stellar play this season, sources said, and that included New York Knicks swingman Cam Reddish.

Washington officials believed Hachimura, selected by the Wizards at No. 9 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Gonzaga, commanded greater value, sources said. And over Sunday and Monday, the Lakers and Wizards began a viable dialogue that led to the final trade package.

In what marks the first deal of this unofficial NBA trade season, perhaps this swap will spark some movement across the market. Washington had told several teams it sought a first-round pick for Hachimura, sources said. Will other front offices with high asking prices eventually drop their demands as well? The Pistons are seeking first-round capital at minimum for Bojan Bogdanovic just like the Rockets are seeking a first-round pick for Eric Gordon, sources said. But there are plenty of buyers willing to part with multiple second-rounders, like the Bucks’ efforts to turn Grayson Allen and seconds into a postseason upgrade for Milwaukee.

Rui Hachimura gives the Lakers a young player with promise, but it comes at a cost. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

For the Lakers, the fourth-year forward adds frontcourt reinforcement as a career 35.6% 3-point shooter. Hachimura also offers some additional upside in shot creation off the dribble for a team lacking an obvious table-setting point guard — not to mention a young player with upside who has been few and far between for this Los Angeles roster in recent seasons.

Hachimura will be a restricted free agent come season’s end, as opposed to Nunn’s unrestricted free agency, and that dynamic will add an interesting wrinkle to Los Angeles’ offseason plans, depending on Hachimura’s performance down the stretch of this 2022-23 campaign.

The Lakers don’t make this deal without the intention of re-signing Hachimura this summer. While second-round picks hold varying valuations depending on front office opinions, sending out three to acquire Hachimura and obtain his Bird rights is a significant price considering his $18.8…

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