When the Charlotte Hornets selected PJ Washington at No. 12 in the 2019 NBA Draft he was considered a relatively safe pick. While he didn’t have the hype or expectations of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, or RJ Barrett, it was still clear that PJ had a solid game and could immediately contribute in Charlotte.
While PJ’s averages of 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists aren’t spectacular they’re more impressive than most people realize. It’s not often players surpass those thresholds during their rookie seasons. If the 2019-20 season were to end today, PJ would become just the ninth rookie in the last 10 years to average at least 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists per game, according to Basketball Reference.
That’s pretty good company to keep. Luka Doncic, Blake Griffin, Joel Embiid, and DeMarcus Cousins have been among the most dominant players in the league (when healthy) and Zion Williamson will surely join their ranks. Ben Simmons is an All-Star, Dario Saric is a solid contributor, and only Michael Carter-Williams has struggled finding a consistent role.
What’s most impressive about PJ Washington joining this list of productive rookies is he’s doing it as the No.12 pick. Of the other eight players among this group, six of them were Top 5 picks with only Carter-Williams (No. 11) and Saric (No. 12) being drafted near where the Hornets selected PJ.
Washington is scoring his 12.2 points per game in a pretty efficient way when compared to the other 12-5-2 rookies. In today’s three-point heavy NBA the best way to look at shooting efficiency is Effective Field Goal Percentage which accounts for the fact that three-pointers are worth more than two-pointers. Washington’s 52.8 eFG percentage ranks third on this list, trailing only Zion Williamson and Ben Simmons.
As far as the Hornets franchise is concerned, PJ is just the second 12-5-2 rookie in the team’s history, joining Larry Johnson in his memorable 1991-92 Rookie of the Year campaign.
Before we get ahead of ourselves in over inflating PJ’s potential based on his rookie stats, I’ll just state up front he’s nowhere near the same level of player as guys like Doncic, Embiid, Griffin, or Zion. Most rookies need to land in just the right spot in order to get the minutes that are required to put up decent stats, and PJ couldn’t have asked for a better situation than he has in Charlotte. While he’s earned the 30.2 minutes per game he’s averaging and the Hornets are building for the future, he may not have had the same opportunities playing for a different team.
But overall it’s been a far better season for PJ than most people realize. He has flown below the national media radar but those of us who follow the Hornets know he’s had a solid rookie season. It’s not easy to be a 12-5-2 rookie, and Charlotte landed one with the No. 12 pick.