If former North Carolina graduate, PJ Hairston, is not a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft it is not because of a lack of talent. PJ has all the talent that a team in the mid to late lottery would want in a prospect. The biggest detriment to Hairston is his past. Before his Junior season as a Tar Heel began Hairston was suspended by the NCAA for the first ten games of the season. After the suspension was up, NC decided they would not seek reinstatement of Hairston.
Hairston was suspended after he was pulled over by police for multiple traffic violations, including reckless driving. These incidents led the NCAA to knowledge that Hairston was using rental cars at no cost, or essentially receiving benefits that violate the NCAA’s rules. I would dare say the NBA could not care less about the fact he was using a rental car for free. There are two disturbing aspects of this story though. First, he was a repeat offender. Second, these incidents lead to the information that Hairston was hanging out with an individual named “Fats”. Fats was charged for possession of a weapon by a felon, maintaining a dwelling used to keep and sell drugs, and possession of drug paraphernalia. This is obviously a concern for NBA personnel.
PJ did not let his ban hold him down. Hairston decided to follow Glen Rice Jr.’s path and play in the D-league until the draft. The fact that PJ picked himself up while he was down helps some sense of maturity. That maturity is augmented by the fact that there were no issues with him while he was in the D-League. Team interviews with Hairston will be especially key to determine his draft range.
As previously stated, PJ has mid-lottery talent. Chad Ford recently spoke of this talent by saying “Hairston has the prototypical game of an NBA wing. In fact, one could argue he has a more NBA-ready game than several other wings ranked higher. The question for him will be convincing teams he has matured since getting kicked off the North Carolina Tar Heels this season.”
The ability to shoot the ball as well as PJ does is something every team is looking for. This kid is deadly from anywhere on the court. In transition opportunities PJ thrives by consistently knocking down the 3. For this reason, defenses must always be aware of his court position. Hairston is deadly coming off screens, shooting it off the dribble, and when his feet are set.
While he is a deadly shooter, PJ has yet to gain the ability to create his own offense. He is not a guy you can give the ball to and expect to create his own shot. In fact, DraftExpress noted that only 13.2% of his shots were ISO’s or self created looks. Hairston needs a screen, or a capable playmaker to make the play for him. His strength helps him finish at the basket, but his lack of great ball handling skills make it more difficult for him to get there.
Defensively Hairston showed a lot of potential. With a 6’9.5” wingspan he has the length and strength to defend both wing positions. He did however show more success when guarding SFs as compared to SGs. This is primarily due to his 230 lb. frame that gives him the strength to lock opponents down. He shows he has the ability to move his feet laterally to stay in front of the man he is guarding. The biggest inconsistency with this young guard is his effort on the defensive end. He has the tools and ability to be an awesome “3 and D” guy in the NBA. However, PJ will need a coach that can get him to regularly exert himself on the defensive end.
Athletically Hairston is good, not great. In the NBA he will only be an elite athlete. Highlight plays from PJ wont be out of this world dunks. As of right now PJ has not demonstrated amazing passing abilities. Some scouts argue this is because he has never been asked to pass the ball, I however believe his basketball IQ is slightly lower than your average guard. The development of a passing game will be something that could take his game to the next level.
On draft night, I believe the Jazz will have the option of drafting Hairston with the 23rd pick. His situation is very similar to what happened with Lance Stephenson. Stephenson was mid-first round talent but, on draft night teams weighed his character and he was not drafted until the 40th pick. In such a deep draft, I have a hard time not seeing this happen. Teams want what Hairston can provide, but with good prospects still on the board Hairston’s floor is at the beginning of the second round. However, if he had a great interview with a team and they feel comfortable with his mental makeup, he could go as early as 16 to the Bulls.
If Hairston is there at 23, they will have a tough decision to make. Hairston fits EXACTLY what they need, which is shooting and scoring from the wing. Yet, with such a young roster and a new head coach, character issues could destroy a locker room. I personally think that a team like the Bulls or Spurs, who have a stable locker room and strong head coach, would be the best fit for PJ. If the Jazz take him, they are convinced that he has matured, and I will be genuinely excited for the pick. Going back to the Lance Stephenson comparison, these players are not just similar in the fact that they have character issues. These two have very similar games. We all have seen this year what a motivated Lance can do. The question is, can you motivate Hairston? If so, this is a homerun pick at 23.
Check out his highlight plays from the D-League this year. Don’t you love the amount of arc on his shot?
My Comparison – Lance Stephenson