RTC NBA Draft Profiles: P.J. HairstonPosted by Bennet Hayes on June 5th, 2014
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name: P.J. Hairston
School: North Carolina
Height/Weight: 6’5”/220 lbs.
NBA Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Projected Draft Range: Late First Round
Overview: Thirteen months ago, everything was looking up for PJ Hairston. He had announced his return to a North Carolina team that was poised to build off a strong second half of the ACC season, a surge catalyzed largely by Hairston’s insertion into the Tar Heels’ starting lineup. He was to be the leader and primary scoring option for a preseason top-10 team, a tough, physical wing who could score the ball in a variety of ways. Last season looked to be a big year for both Hairston and the Heels… and then the summer happened. Camp and popsicles on the summer vacation was not for Hairston, as a series of violations — speeding tickets, marijuana possession, impermissible benefits received – would wind up costing the senior his final year of college eligibility. Hairston’s loss was a major blow for a UNC team that would struggle to find perimeter scoring options all season, but the suspension may not have injured Hairston’s basketball future as significantly. Sure, PJ was probably disappointed to not be a part of this Carolina season, but Hairston quickly moved on to the professional ranks after being ruled ineligible, latching on with the Texas Legends of the D-League in short order. Once in the Lone Star State, Hairston displayed the scoring touch that had made him one of the ACC’s most lethal offensive players, averaging 21.8 PPG (in just 32 MPG) in 26 contests with the Legends. Game to game consistency is still a major concern with the mercurial ex-Heel, but the diversity of Hairston’s D-league scoring (55% 2FG, 2.8 3FG per game, 87% FT) solidified his status as a likely first-round pick in this June’s draft. Hairston’s road to the NBA will have been far more circuitous than it appeared to be a year ago, but PJ is still right on time in arriving at his destination.
Will Translate to the NBA: At 6’5”, 225 lbs and with a season’s worth of professional experience already under his belt, Hairston should be physically ready to step into the NBA and compete from the outset. Though he is known more for his offensive abilities than anything else, Hairston grew into a willing and able defender in Chapel Hill, and possesses good size for a shooting guard. He also turned in a solid performance at the combine, grading in the top 10 in a number of athleticism tests in Chicago. His lateral quickness will be challenged on the defensive end, but from a physical maturity perspective, Hairston will never look out of place in the NBA.
Needs Work: Hairston has all the tools to develop into a capable wing at the next level, but GMs and scouts will be tasked with determining whether he has the mental makeup to put it all together on a consistent basis. The off-court issues certainly don’t help his cause, but more than anything, Hairston needs to show that he has the competitiveness and focus to bring effort and production on a nightly basis. He was never asked to be a leader at Carolina and spent most of his time in Chapel Hill (and then with the Legends) functioning as a free-wheeling, conscience-lacking energy guy, so corralling that high-volume approach into a more confined role in the NBA could prove to be a challenge. The pieces are in place, but can Hairston put the puzzle together?
Best Case Scenario: Hairston’s physical tools hint at a heightened ceiling for the Carolina castoff. If the summer of 2013 proves to be more of a blip on the radar than anything else, it’s very conceivable that Hairston could grow into a 15-20 PPG scorer in the NBA, while using his size and athleticism to hold his own on the defensive end. He lacks the explosive athleticism and ball-handling savvy typically found in All-Star caliber two-guards, but Hairston has the offensive tools to become an impactful starter on a good NBA team.
Best NBA Fit: At this point, Hairston feels like a good bet to land somewhere in the 20s on draft night. Using that range as a frame of reference, both Oklahoma City (#21) and Memphis (#22) would make for logical landing spots for Hairston. Even with Reggie Jackson’s semi-emergence this season, the Thunder will be seeking more firepower for their bench, and Hairston’s skill set would suit that role admirably. Likewise in Memphis, where an aging Mike Miller was often the Grizzlies lone outside threat on offense; Hairston’s ability to shoot the three-ball would fill an immediate and gaping hole for the Grizz. A final possible landing spot for Hairston: Charlotte at #24. Even disregarding Michael Jordan’s predilection for Tobacco Road college stars, the Hornets (RIP, Bobcats) will be looking to complement Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson with a competent wing scorer, especially with time and hope running out on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. After Hairston’s less than graceful Chapel Hill exit, it would be interesting to see how he would be received in Charlotte.
Scout’s Take (from DraftExpress.com): “Hairston’s jump-shot is clearly his most translatable NBA skill… Hairston’s thick build and aggressive nature allows him to be somewhat of a threat to attack opponents off the dribble, mostly on closeouts and early-offense situations. He’s difficult to stop when he can get a step on his defender and make his way to the basket in a straight-line, as he’s strong enough to simply bully his way to the rim and take contact inside the paint to finish plays off… His excellent wingspan (6-9 ½) and strong frame allows him to play bigger than his just-average height, and he does a very good job of getting over ball-screens thanks to his quick feet and ability to fight through picks.”
NBA Comparison: James Anderson/Paul Pierce
In 140 Characters Or Less, The Case For Hairston:
Do not be surprised if PJ Hairston winds up going much higher in draft than many anticipated. Big-time scorer, tough kid, can also guard.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) February 1, 2014