Even for casual college basketball viewers, Rui Hachimura was a name they heard often coming out of Spokane. His story was all over the national media and he walked 94 feet with Jay Bilas during the Maui Invitational. He is a guaranteed first round pick, but with a pretty wide range of possible landing spots. Here is a bit more information about the Gonzaga junior for those wondering what talents he brings.
Rui’s body is NBA-ready, standing at 6’8, 234 pounds, with a 7’1.5 wingspan. He is skilled enough offensively to play multiple positions, and he is long enough defensively to hold his own. Let’s talk about the offense for a second, because that is where he truly excels. He is as comfortable posting up as he is working in isolation from 17 feet out. He is surprisingly quick, and often times can catch his opponents flat footed.
The Santa Clara game had so much good offense (hello Brandon Clarke monster dunk), but I think you are hard pressed to find a better move than this. There is zero way to defend Rui here, outside of pushing him over. pic.twitter.com/GPbQTX6xCs— Slipper Still Fits (@slipperstillfit) January 26, 2019
Thing to watch going forward: is Rui the guy who gets the ball in his hand when the game is on the line? Halftime buzzer beaters aren't exactly the same thing, but Rui looked so comfortable in that limited crunch time. pic.twitter.com/tyKN2YozTP— Slipper Still Fits (@slipperstillfit) November 16, 2018
That speeds make Rui a menace in transition. He is comfortably bringing the ball up the court a bit himself, and he is adept at finding the open lanes to the hoop. His length and his strength turn him into a train and are rather hard to stop.
Rui is just a smart offensive player with a natural feel for that end of the game and the athletic ability to more than back it up. The Gonzaga coaching staff has been very specific with how they brought him up to speed: Year One: get a toe wet; Year Two: get a foot wet; Year Three: dive into the deep end.
At times, it honestly seems like Rui is just getting going. The team that drafts him is getting someone that is ready to compete immediately, but won’t be making the largest return on investment in the first year. Rui will not be Rookie of the Year, but he very well could become an All-Star.
The offensive end of the game came much easier to Rui than the defensive side did. He is able to get away with some nice looking blocks and sky high rebounds thanks to his length and athleticism, but overall, he is not the best on ball defender, or defender in general. This video shows perfectly how Rui was able to compensate, slightly, through the year.
Great recovery from Rui for the block pic.twitter.com/1keURHn9qH— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) January 13, 2019
His lack of consistent defensive awareness often times can’t be overcome with pure athleticism, however, and this was Rui’s biggest thorn throughout the season. Gonzaga was able to mask his deficiencies throughout the year thanks to the human pogo stick Brandon Clarke. Rui missed defensive assignments, was absent on help side defense, and often visibly struggled with aspects of the game that plague poor defenders. The Zags lost a game against Tennessee when he inexplicably did not pick up Admiral Schofeld on the game-winning three, his 30th points and sixth three of the game.
I've bought into Rui's offense a lot more this year and he was great on that end against Tennessee but his defense continues to be inexcusably bad. What is this? Perkins doesn't need help here (screen rejected) but he just leaves a white-hot shooter wide open at a critical moment pic.twitter.com/Sq207VNmke— Jackson Hoy (@jacksonghoy) December 13, 2018
It is important to remember, however, that Rui has not been playing the game of basketball for too long (he grew up playing baseball). He also did not have a mastery of the English language when he arrived, and many profiles throughout the season detailed the struggles he had in basic communication due to the language barrier his freshman year.
Rui’s one other weakness might not be a weakness at all. Although he shot over 41 percent from the three-point line, he only averaged one attempt per game. He has an impressive range near the hoop, but he hasn’t demonstrated consistent NBA range at all throughout his college career. For him to truly succeed at the NBA-level, Rui needs to add three point range to his offensive arsenal to realize his fullest potential.
What to expect
Rui’s been listed as high as a lottery pick and as low as the low-20s in mock draft boards around the internet, and with good reason. He is an intriguing prospect with an incredibly high ceiling, but it is going to take some work to get there. His evolution throughout his three years at Gonzaga show the work ethic and determination is there. It will take time to get there, however.
A team that drafts Rui expecting a huge year one impact is fooling itself on that return. If a team takes the time to give Rui the coaching he needs, especially on the defensive end, and the minutes to keep his offensive game polished, in two or three years, you can start to expect quite a bit.