Rui Hachimura, Los Angeles Lakers
#28 Rui Hachimura of the Los Angeles Lakers during his introductory press conference. Los Angeles Lakers/YouTube Screenshot


  • Rui Hachimura played a crucial role in the Lakers' Game 1 win over the Grizzlies
  • Rob Pelinka paid little to acquire Hachimura from the Washington Wizards
  • Ja Morant's questionable status for Game 2 and beyond opens the door for the Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers showcased otherworldly resiliency this season to secure a playoff seed, and their 128-112 Game 1 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies was, in many ways, a coming-out party for the storied franchise.

One player who shone the brightest though has Rui Hachimura.

Hachimura, in his five-season NBA career, has only made the playoffs once prior to this season – averaging 14.8 points on an astounding 61.7 percent shooting from the field plus 7.2 rebounds in five games against the Philadelphia 76ers in 2021.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka gave the franchise a facelift by trading for Hachimura, sending Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks for the Japanese star and it has paid off in a big way.

In 33 games for the Lakers, Hachimura has remained deathly efficient from the field (48.5%) for 9.6 points while grabbing 4.7 rebounds.

Against the Grizzlies, Hachimura provided the Lakers with some much-needed energy on the floor by staying in the paint to grab offensive boards while willingly squaring up with Memphis' bigs like Jaren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman plus providing help defense on the wings.

Hachimura was relatively ineffective in the first half as he only scored eight points, but he certainly turned it up in the second half; pouring in 21 points for a total of 29 for the night alongside six rebounds.

For additional context, Hachimura led the Lakers in scoring while LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves would add 21, 22, and 23 points respectively.

Bench depth was a major concern for the Lakers entering the 2022-23 regular season as they were still reeling from the fallout of the Russell Westbrook acquisition the previous season.

As the seventh seed, a matchup with the explosively well-balanced Grizzlies would be a nightmare for anyone, but the Lakers simply could not be counted out as they are fully healthy for the first time in a long time.

Any franchise that has James and Davis anchoring them will always have a chance to pull off an upset, and having a starting-caliber forward coming off the bench is always a great addition for any title hopeful.

Though it is only a one-game postseason sample thus far, the Lakers being able to steal homecourt from the Grizzlies is a very big deal if they want to advance to the second round.

Hachimura has emerged as the Lakers' sixth man and the effort and energy that he provides on both ends of the floor will play a major role in determining whether the Lakers advance.

Add in Ja Morant's hand injury that could leave him sidelined for Game 2 and possibly beyond, the Lakers faithful can expect Darvin Ham's wards to be even more aggressive in Game 2 as they hope to completely negate the Grizzlies' homecourt advantage.

To say that not having Hachimura off the bench would have been a detriment to the Lakers' chances is a massive understatement and Pelinka taking a chance on him for such a relatively small price deserves its adulation as well.

Rui Hachimura, Austin Reaves
#15 Austin Reaves and #28 Rui Hachimura of the Los Angeles Lakers. Lakers Daily/Twitter