Well, I think that Hornets’ fans got who we wanted all along. With the 26th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft (after a trade with the dreaded Miami Heat), the Charlotte Hornets selected swingman and former Carolina Tarheel P.J. Hairston. Here’s a look at the newest Charlotte Hornet:
Strengths: Overall, P.J. Hairston is a very talented and an impressive multi-dimensional player on the offensive end of the basketball court. At 6’5” and 230 lbs, Hairston’s strength is tremendous, helping him not only attack the basket but also in finishing through traffic with consistency. This size adds the possibility of Hairston developing a post-up game to take advantage of smaller defenders, something that many bigger NBA guards have added to their repertoire in the last few years.
From the outside, Hairston put up respectable numbers last year with the D-League’s Texas Legends, connecting on nearly 36% of his three-point attempts. While the former Tar Heel is no Nik Stauskas from beyond the arc, I was impressed with Hairston’s ability to hit threes off of the dribble and in transition. At the next level, I can see the swingman being deadly in transition with a solid three-point shot and strong finishing ability.
In addition, I like Hairston from a defensive perspective when he gives the proper effort. With an incredible 6’9” wingspan, P.J. has the ability to get his hands in the passing lane and block shots, averaging 1.9 steals per 40 minutes last year with the Legends. On tape, I was also impressed with how he didn’t seem to get too aggressive on defense as many young players so frequently do.
While I was impressed with P.J. Hairston’s ability in the slashing game, overall, he isn’t the greatest ball handler, averaging 1.8 turnovers a game last season in the D-League. The combine the issue, Hairston isn’t the greatest decision maker and frequently struggles to make the simple pass or take the simple shot.
Even with a few notable shortcomings in Hairston's game, the most most significant issue with the former UNC star in my opinion is the inconsistent effort that he shows while on the basketball court. For example, on tape, one play you might see him hustle for a rebound while the next you might see Haiston lollygag up to the defensive end of court after a missed shot. In addition, while there have been plenty of basketball players who have had successful pro careers after significant off-court issues (Allen Iverson), Hairston’s mishaps during his time at Carolina are certainly concerning and have made many question his discipline and dedication to basketball. Don’t get me wrong, these collegiate issues won’t define Hairston’s career, but it’s certainly something that he’ll have to overcome at the next level.
While Hairston will have to fight for minutes coming off of the beach next season with the likes of Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jeffrey Tayler, and Gary Neal, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends as Charlotte’s sixth man by the end of the season. Ultimately, no matter how many second-string small forwards the Hornets have, If Hairston reaches his true potential as an offensive player, there’s going to be a spot for him in Charlotte for years to come.
Overall, I love this selection of P.J. Haiston by GM Rich Cho and company. While Hairston’s off court issues are somewhat concerning, if he can devote himself to become a better basketball player under Steve Clifford’s leadership, it’s scary how good P.J. can be. Regardless of what position Hairston ends up playing for the Hornets whether is shooting guard or small forward, he’s going to be a great scorer for Charlotte with the potential of becoming a future starter at the NBA level. Plus, and most importantly for us fans, he’s going to a fun player to watch in purple and teal for seasons to come. Grade A.
Lead Hornets Writer: Jonathon Hoppe