P.J. Hairston already has more responsibility than expected handed to him. So far, he's the only rookie on the Hornets to see any minutes, he's had to shoulder a lot more load through the earliest weeks of the season than you would expect from a late first round pick; and, more critically, his primary skill — 3-point shooting — is a facet of the game that the Hornets are sorely lacking in, as their .307 mark from range ranks 26th in the league.
Let's start with that 3-point shooting. This has been a problem area for the Hornets all season, and a lot of their offensive issues can stem from this skill deficiency. Hairston was brought in to help their outside game, and so far, the results have been mixed. The negative is that he hasn't yet been hitting them at the rate that most of us would like; at 29.4 percent, his 3-point percentage is below league average. That said, he has shown that he can be a consistent threat from beyond the arc, and defenses have been forced to respect his shot. It might not sound like much, but on a team that now has two legitimate options that must be covered from deep in their bench unit, that skill has opened up a lot of scoring opportunities both from the perimeter and for the big men on the inside.
Furthermore, his overall offensive game has looked pretty good so far. While his lack of explosiveness often does prevent him from being a threat to drive to the basket, his overwhelming body strength prevents most small forwards from playing him too closely or too physically. That's what's allowed Hairston to get as many open looks as he has, because he has not looked like the purely catch-and-shoot player that one might expect. While the vast majority of his shots come from outside, his interior shots have been high-percentage opportunities, many of which were created by an offensive rebound or a well-placed jab step (or similar move) to free up some extra space between him and his defender. Because so many of his shots were created by having the ball in his hands, I have to commend Hairston for his shot selection. While many volume-shooting rookies have a tendency to take whatever shot they can get, Hairston's selections have been deliberate, with no long-twos and a lot of threes on his shot chart. Between this and the fact that his ball movement isn't nearly as vacuous as some amateur scouts might have been worried about, I think it's possible that any concerns about Hairston's basketball IQ may have been slightly overblown (but what isn't, when it comes to college stars at high-profile programs?).
Of course, it's the other end of the court that caused the most worry about the choice to draft P.J. Hairston. What I've seen from him so far suggests that he's been totally adequate on the defensive side. Although he hasn't yet been able to disrupt passing lanes like I thought he might be able to, I'm willing to chalk that up to the small sample size of five games. On the other hand, he's been more useful in on-ball situations than I expected. He doesn't excel in these situations, but according to 82games.com, he's doing a better job of preventing made field goals than his teammates, so that's definitely a positive in his favor. I'd have to attribute a little bit of that stat to his three blocks, all of which came against Miami, but that does show a propensity for making plays with his strength in interior defense.
More recently, Hairston has seen an increase in his playing time, at the expense of Gerald Henderson's. While we can debate whether or not that swing in minutes has been warranted, I think it's fair to say that Hairston does provide a skill that the Hornets desperately need, while Henderson doesn't quite offer the same shooting ability from deep. The raw stats do suggest that Hairston has outplayed his teammate so far this season, albeit in fewer minutes. That said, there's more than just individual stats to the game of basketball, as team chemistry and fit matters a lot too. It's for that reason that I think it would be wise for Steve Clifford to continue playing P.J. Hairston similar minutes. He's subtracting very little from the second unit while providing them with an additional perimeter threat that's resulted in increased scoring for the bench lineups. So, in short: P.J. Hairston has shown his value to this team already, and I see no reason to believe that he won't continue to be an asset.