PJ Washington – Kentucky – 6’8 230- Wing/Forward
The Hornets selected P.J. Washington out of Kentucky with their 12th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Washington isn’t the sexiest pick to some but he has a solid floor and a quality starter upside to make him a very safe and reliable pick out of this years draft class. Let’s take a dive into what type of player he is and how he fits into the Hornets plans.
After returning for his sophomore season, P.J. was a terrific player for the Wildcats last year and improved his numbers all across the board.
In just two more minutes a game, P.J. increased his scoring from 10.8 points a game to 15.2, his rebounding from 5.7 rebounds a game to 7.5, and his three point shooting from 23.8% to 42.3%. He was also really impactful with an 11.5 BPM and .223 WS/40. The improved three point shooting is what makes PJ an intriguing player and a really good two-way option down the road.
During the offseason, P.J. worked a lot on his jumper and made his release point higher which resulted in the improved shooting. Last year, P.J. was in the 93rd percentile in catch and shoot jumpers and shot 50% on NBA threes although that is a small sample size you can see the potential is truly there for his game to transition well to the NBA. A lot of his value on the offensive end will be as a floor spacer and with these numbers, he projects to excel in that role.
P.J. isn’t just a shooter though. He has the ability to attack closeouts:
This separates him from regular floor spacers. This gives him a more versatile scoring package and as you can see here, he’s strong and able to finish through contact (that’s an and-one in the NBA). In addition, the guy is just a really good passer, especially for someone who projects to play at the four. Look at these feeds:
This passing from your big can help any team and especially the Hornets if Kemba Walker comes back. Kemba was trapped off of a lot of pick and rolls last year and with the passing ability of P.J., Kemba can get it to him and he’ll make good decisions. Also, P.J. can score out of the short roll:
Lastly, P.J. can attack mismatches in the post. The league today is getting way more switch heavy and so it’s nice to have a guy at the four who can punish wings and guards in the post. This past year, he was in the 66th percentile on post-ups. I mean, look what he did here to Grant Williams who might be the strongest player in this year’s draft class:
P.J. doesn’t give us any dribble creation on offense, isn’t a high level pull-up shooter, and won’t shoot off movement so he doesn’t have that type of offensive upside. However, the things he can do make him a positive on the offensive end. He’s a high offensive IQ guy and won’t be out of place Day 1 and can truly help improve a team.
On defense, P.J. projects as a guy that can guard multiple positions (3-5 most likely). Here’s him against Jordan Nwora (will be drafted next year) and Nassir Little (first round pick this year):
P.J. isn’t going to be a stopper by any means but he will be able to switch and hold his own which is really valuable in the league today. He has a seven foot, two inch wingspan that will allow him stay with guys on switches and contest shots. He doesn’t make a ton of highlight plays on that end but he does enough (1.1 steals and 1.7 blocks per 40) and that added to his switch value will make him a positive on the defensive side of the floor as well.
His one weakness on defense is probably his defensive rebounding which I think makes him a solid four and not really a great small ball option. Here he loses Nwora and Nwora gets a free lane for the put-back dunk attempt:
PJ’s problem is that he doesn’t have the athleticism to be elite on either side of the floor but he is a pretty good athlete and should be above-average to good on either side. Finding 3/4s that are good on both sides of the floor is hard and is extremely valuable in the modern NBA.
I understand concerns about positional overlap with Miles Bridges but I disagree. This isn’t like having four or 5 centers. Miles and P.J. can play the 3 and the 4 and you can never have enough two-way wings in my opinion. We saw it in the playoffs this past year. You need to have guys that can play on both sides or they’ll be attacked relentlessly on the defensive end or left alone on the offensive end. Teams won’t be able to do that with Miles and P.J.
The Hornets have a couple nice wings in Miles, P.J., and Dwayne Bacon. We’re still missing another guy that can self-create which is definitely a huge hole. However, I really like stocking up on wings that can shoot, dribble, and pass if you don’t feel that a guy who can be a star is on the board. If Kemba leaves, we could potentially get that guy in the draft next year. If Kemba stays, it’s nice to surround him with wings that will insulate him defensively and be able to make smart decisions on the offensive end. That’s what PJ is and so I really do like the pick. P.J. will still give us some nice highlights too: