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Why is P.J. Hairston still starting?

P.J. Hairston's offensive and defensive numbers are making it harder to justify his spot in the starting lineup.

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P.J. Hairston was a minor positive in what was otherwise a bad night for the Charlotte Hornets in their 113-98 loss to the Orlando Magic. Hairston scored 14 pointson 5-11 shooting, knocking down 3-7 from the 3-point line, all in 22 minutes. It's only the second time Hairston has scored in double figures this season. As of last night, Hairston is averaging just 4.6 points, and 2.2 rebounds per game, shooting 33.3 percent from the field. His 3-point percentage is an abysmal 28.4 percent, and his PER stands at 6.2. All this begs the question -- why is he still starting?

"Defense" is brought up when providing rationale for why Hairston starts at the shooting guard position. Listed at 6-6, 230 pounds, Hairston has the size and strength to guard most NBA shooting guards. The problem is, he isn't doing a good job at it. Hairston's defensive rating is 105, which is worst on the team. According to,opposing players are shooting 49.2 percent from the field when Hairston is defending them, and and 45.7 percent from the 3-point line. What's more, these players shoot the ball better when Hairston defends them, as the average field goal percentage and 3-point percentage of the players Hairston has guarded is 44 and 37.4 percent, respectively. Hairston isn't fairing well when defending drivers either, as players are making 60 percent of shots from inside six feet.

So Hairston is arguably the worst perimeter defender on the team, and his offensive numbers are generally down from last season. These aren't the numbers any team would want one of their five starters producing.

With that in mind, we turn to the rotation. BenchForce1 is led by Jeremy Lamb andJeremy Lin, two players, and guards, who have provided sparks for the Hornets off the bench throughout the season. The duo combine for roughly 22 points a game, which is one reason Charlotte's bench has been so productive at scoring the ball. Part of the reason they thrive scoring is because both are primary options off the bench. With the starting unit, both would take a step back to Kemba WalkerNicolas Batum, and Al Jefferson when he's in the lineup, much like Hairston does currently.

And that's where this gets tricky, and why it makes some sense as to why Hairston remains the starter. He's essentially filling the offensive role Michael Kidd-Gilchristwould have in the starting lineup, as the last scoring option on the floor. The problem is, he isn't contributing on the defense end of the floor like MKG would, and his offensive numbers are worse than MKG's have been historically. Even MKG, with his still developing jumpshot, has shot the ball better than Hairston, at least within the 3-point line.

So in theory, starting Hairston makes sense -- he defers to the other players on the floor, allowing them to get in a rhythm. However, his individual deficiencies on both ends of the floor make it difficult for his spot in the starting lineup to remain justified.

With his status in Thursday's game against Toronto in question, Clifford may have to start either Lamb or Lin. Even with their productivity off the bench, now may be the time to experiment with one or the other as the starter for the next four or five games. With Jefferson serving his suspension, either player would receive more touches, sinceCody Zeller doesn't look for his own shots, and Marvin Williams shoots primarily off of open looks. Lamb or Lin would be the third scoring option in the starting lineup currently, and while Jefferson is out, that's something worth exploring.


FanDuel allows players to pick daily fantasy lineups. If you're into that, here's where you can sign up. A number of Hornets players are solid picks for fantasy lineups on most nights, even if Hairston isn't, at least currently.

Disclaimer: Even though this is a sponsored post with affiliate links, all of the opinions in this post are my own. And as an FYI, FanDuel gave me some cash to play its daily fantasy games.