Welcome to a new segment in which we will be tracking the progress of rookie players in the NBA. Our goal here is to educate you on the progression of the first-year talent across the league. Throughout these articles, you'll find everything to specific film breakdowns to analytic rankings. Our first rookie focus is looking at Charlotte Hornets' first-round selection P.J. Washington.
Now for those that don't remember Washington, let's catch you up to speed quickly. PJ Washington was the 12th overall selection in this year's draft and played his college basketball at the University of Kentucky. Washington was originally thought to declare after his freshman year but decided to return to Kentucky for another year to improve his game. The decision was one of the best in recent draft prospect history. PJ saw a massive improvement across the board, notably to his outside shooting. He quickly gained the attention of NBA personnel league-wide, as Washington looked to be a prospect that was finally putting the pieces all together. The numbers don't lie as you'll see below when looking at Washington's numbers while he attended Kentucky. Look closely at the jump in production from outside.
It's an eye-opening spike for any talent evaluator. Rarely do you see a prospect sitting at the poker table go all-in and see it pay off in such a massive way. Washington reaped the benefits of his increase in production. Fast forward to NBA action, and PJ has been nothing short of fantastic for this rebuilding Charlotte Hornets franchise.
If we take a look at some of the advanced numbers, compliments of Synergy, you'll see that Washington has some promising rankings on the offensive side of the ball.
All of the numbers above are more than positive for Charlotte Hornets fans and it's definitely something to build off of when it comes to Washington as a player. The "Overall Half Court" ranking is the bread and butter here, and seeing a late lottery selection in the mid 80 percentile is worthy of a fist pump. No seriously, go ahead Hornets fans give yourself a high-five you earned it.
- It didn't take PJ long to let everyone know that his outside game was going to continue to blossom at the next level. Washington was knocked for being a bit undersized for a true 4 at 6'8", but he has underrated athleticism and explosion for the position. Pairing all of that with his floor stretching ability, and the Hornets look to have hit with their first-round selection this year.
- Another great clip here, showing off PJ Washington's ability on the offensive side of the ball. Washington has an intriguing skillset blossoming in a hurry. He's an offensive weapon and vastly underrated in the post. Here Washington gets a post-up opportunity against a smaller guard in Chicago's Coby White. Most rookies here will often put their heads down and try to force a shot up. Washington surveys the floor and whips it to the corner to Terry Rozier before some beautiful ball movement rewards PJ with an open corner three.
- If you saw our pre-draft FILM ROOM on PJ Washington (you can here if you're interested) you'll remember this post-up move plenty. This was PJ's go-to move during his Sophomore year in the post for Kentucky, and it's great to see the confidence is still there so early in the year. Great little gather here, followed by a great example of the underrated explosiveness by PJ for the jump hook.
- Again, we get some more post-up action from PJ. The thing that stood out to me watching Washington during his Sophomore year at Kentucky was he plays the game like a veteran on the offensive side of the ball. List most rookies, he will have his growing pains on both sides of the ball, but there's plenty of time for the game to continue to slow down for him. Great recognition by PJ here once he gets Fox in the switch and he goes to work to create positioning in the post. Great touch with the jump hook to get it over the helping defender.
- One of the best "features" to the skillset of PJ's game is his ability to run in transition. Here's a great clip showing the type of athlete Washington has. The young big has soft hands and the ability to get out and run. Great clip here of Washington on the move in transition and showcasing great hands and leaping ability on this finish.
It's a long season, but so far the early returns on Charlotte Hornets lottery selection PJ Washington have been outstanding. It's always difficult for rookies to maintain their "hot streak" when they come into the league hot out of the gates, but Washington's early-season performance should have Hornets fans excited for the future. Below you'll see Washington's current stats for the NBA season, and you'll notice that both his FG% and 3P% are eye-openers.