Editor’s Note: As we get closer to the draft, it’s time to talk about possible draft picks for the Hornets. Over the next month, we will preview guys that could end up going to the Hornets at either picks number 9, 24, or 45, culminating in two mock drafts. Also during this time span, we will preview other options the Hornets have such as trading picks or available free-agents. Stick with us for original analysis and predictions all summer long!
Player Essentials: P.J. Hairston
Strengths: Overall, P.J. Hairston is a very talented and 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.
Weaknesses: 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 they should certainly be in the back of Rich Cho’s mind when making a selection.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Hairston is an extremely talented player who has the capability of becoming a superstar in the NBA if he improves on a couple aspects of his game and stays disciplined and committed to his craft. While I wouldn’t consider Hairston with the number nine pick in this year’s draft, he could be a great option for Charlotte if he slips down the the 24 spot. As far as the fit goes with the Hornets, he would have to compete for playing time with reserve incumbents Gary Neal, Jeffrey Tayler, and Chris Douglas-Roberts, but if the front office thinks that P.J. Hairston is the best option for their second first-round pick, I’m sure Steve Clifford wouldn’t mind having an incredible offensive talent like Hairston on his roster come next season.
Lead Hornets Writer: Jonathon Hoppe