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Getting to know the Hornets draft picks: PJ Washington

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The Hornets continued their recent tradition of selecting highly touted recruits out of blue blood college programs.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets-Press Conference Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

P.J. Washington was such a Charlotte Hornets draft pick. For the last several years, the team has favored productive players from traditional college basketball powerhouses. Washington fits that bill to a t.

Washington was coached by his father at Findlay Prep, one of college basketball’s premier feeder schools. He was a five star recruit coming out and was ranked as the 11th or 13th best prospect in the nation depending on the source. Like many prospects in his position, he chose to attend college at Kentucky, which is basically an NBA preparatory academy at this point.

His freshman season at Kentucky was a little underwhelming. He averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting a paltry 23.8% from three on 21 total attempts. He still entered his name in the 2018 NBA Draft, but ultimately decided to return to school for his sophomore season.

Whatever he heard during last year’s pre-draft process clearly motivated the Louisville native. His sophomore season was a massive improvement over his freshman campaign. He improved in every single statistical category. Points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, 2-point percentage, 3-point percentage all went up, even on a per-40 minute basis. Meanwhile, his turnovers and fouls decreased. He improved his efficiency and lowered his turnover rate despite seeing an increase in usage. His offensive rating and offensive box plus/minus took massive leaps while his defensive metrics improved to elite levels.

His rapid improvement clearly caught the front office’s collective eye, enough so that they made him the twelfth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Washington, like the rest of the Hornets recent draft picks, is a do-it-all player. Adding a jump shot to his repertoire really rounded out his game and gives him a skill to lean on right away at the NBA level. His form his picturesque. It’s compact and repeatable with almost no wasted motion. He gets into his shot quickly and isn’t bothered by heavy contests. He likes to step into his shot, but he can catch on the hop if the situation necessitates it. He’s also got a great jumper out of triple threat when facing up defenders.

His jump shot opens up his dribble drive game. He’s not an advanced ball handler by any means, but the threat of his jump shot makes defenders lunge to close out. He can attack those close outs with straight line drives. He can finish at the basket and he has a soft touch on his floater.

His post game is rudimentary, but that’s okay. He’ll probably only go to that when he has a mismatch, so he doesn’t need a deep bag of tricks. His preferred shot is a right handed baby hook, which I’m pretty sure he literally never misses.

Washington is a good passer for a power forward. He possesses just about every pass you could reasonably expect your power forward to have, as illustrated in this nifty little montage:

Washington can guard three positions comfortably, from small forward to center. He’ll probably spend most of his time at the four spot in the NBA, but he can slide up or down a spot if needed in different lineup configurations. He has good feet to guard on the perimeter and his length and athleticism allow him to protect the rim when he’s fully engaged. His 7’2.5” wingspan can cover a lot of his mistakes as well.

I expect Washington to have a similar rookie season arc to Miles Bridges. He’ll start off backing up Marvin Williams and may only see sporadic minutes for the first few weeks of the season, but it shouldn’t take long for him to solidify a spot in the rotation, especially if his jump shot translates immediately. By his second season at the latest, he should be able to slide in as the starting four next to Miles Bridges, giving the Hornets an athletic, interchangeable duo of versatile forwards.