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Lakers: What Rui Hachimura Trade Means For LA’s 2023 Free Agency Cap Space

Keeping the high-upside role player may have other roster ramifications.

The latest Los Angeles Laker, 6'8" combo forward Rui Hachimura, is an exciting addition to this season's roster for the home stretch. His athleticism, size and length (he boasts a 7'2" wingspan) still equip the 24-year-old with tantalizing upside. Selected with the ninth pick out of Gonzaga in the 2019 NBA draft, for now Hachimura is mostly a shooter. He has proven to be especially adept at catch-and-shoot triples, connecting on 41.3% of his looks over the past two seasons with his last club, the Washington Wizards.

But what does this trade mean for LA's future beyond the 2022-23 season?

Hachimura, earning $6.3 million while still on his rookie scale contract this year, can be a restricted free agent in the summer. Retaining him will require the Lakers to cut a bit into their cap space, and thus could impede how they approach the rest of free agency.

The forward is currently on an $18.8 million cap hold for the offseason, meaning the Lakers will operate as if he is earning that much until they sign him to an actual new deal (or someone else does and the Lakers opt not to match the offer). LA will not have enough money to sign a player to an absolute maximum contract this offseason, but it will still have funds to add quality roster depth once Russell Westbrook's $47.1 million deal comes off the books. 

Danny Leroux of The Athletic writes that it might make more sense for the Lakers to operate as an over-the-cap team now, while they still have Westbrook's contract, and trade for further quality talent signed to longer-term money.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype notes that Hachimura, assuming he plays at least at his Wizards level, will also help the Lakers maintain some level of frontcourt depth into next season if starting center Thomas Bryant, clearly in line for a raise beyond his current veteran's minimum deal, decides to leave for greener pastures. Scotto notes that the Hachimura trade will make it tougher for the Lakers to court top free agents as a new deal for the talented young forward will impact their cap.