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2019-20 Season Preview: PJ Washington

After missing Summer League, Washington has flown under the radar, but he could be in for a big rookie season.

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NBA: Summer League-Charlotte Hornets at Chicago Bulls Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets made the most Charlotte Hornets pick possible in the 2019 NBA Draft by selecting PJ Washington twelfth overall. On the surface, he’s a quintessential Hornets pick. He’s a bit older and was productive at a prestigious basketball school, but he didn’t have the otherworldly ‘upside’ that other potential picks in that range possessed. That superficial analysis earned the Hornets some eye rolls and jeers from the faithful.

But the selection of Washington was a perfect Hornets pick for a different reason—he has a strong, well-rounded skill set. The Hornets are transforming their style of play under Gregg Popovich disciple James Borrego. The team is emphasizing team play and defense, and that style of play requires all five players to defend their position and make sound plays with the ball. Washington does both of those things.

The Hornets head coach already has high hopes for Washington right out of the gate.

I see him at more ‘4’ right now, but the way we played last year and the way this league is going, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him moving to some ‘5’ as well. He’s a guy that can rebound, he’s skilled, he can handle it on the break. When you look at Miles and PJ, my hope is that they can lead the break on a number of nights, that they are making plays for others. He’s that skilled.

I like the way he is shooting the 3-ball already. We are not going to wait for PJ to shoot 3s. He’s going to shoot 3s now and we are excited about that. Very good and willing passer, which I really like. As we look at our group from last year to this year, we need multiple guys that can make plays. So I need guys that can make the extra pass, make the right play, and PJ is one of the guys that fits that.

There’s not a lot to add to what Borrego said. Washington can do pretty much everything on an NBA court at a passable level at worst. He can reasonably be expected to guard positions three through five if needed and can function on both the interior and the perimeter offensively. He might struggle to find minutes early as Marvin Williams and Miles Bridges seem set to dominate the power forward minutes out of the gate, but he can carve out a role as a backup 4/5 hybrid. That’s especially true if Willy Hernangomez continues to struggle on the defensive end like we’ve seen in the past. If that happens, we may see Borrego elect to go small like he did with Marvin Williams last season.

As the season rolls on, Washington should earn a consistent spot in the rotation. He’s too skilled not to. He’s almost been forgotten about amid the shuffle of the Hornets roster, but that almost suits him at this point. He wasn’t a glamorous pick in the draft and he probably won’t be a glamorous player in the pros, but he’s a good basketball player, and the Hornets need good basketball players.