PJ Washington’s Professionalism And Versatility Lead To New Contract In Charlotte

One of the last major to-do’s on the Charlotte Hornets’ offseason agenda has now been checked off, with the team officially re-signing soon-to-be fifth year power forward PJ Washington early last week. On Tuesday afternoon, Washington met with the media at Spectrum Center for the first time since agreeing to terms with the organization.

“I love the city of Charlotte and I’m happy to be here,” said Washington in his opening statement. “I always wanted to stay in Charlotte. There was no doubt about that. We have a bunch of great players here. I'm just excited to come in and see everybody. I'm excited for the season and for all our hard work to show."

Taken with the 12th overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, Washington has steadily improved each of his first four professional campaigns, while taking on several different roles and responsibilities. His re-signing comes on the heels of fellow homegrown talent LaMelo Ball’s rookie max extension, which he inked with the Hornets back in mid-July.

“Every year [PJ’s] been with us, he’s been a pleasure to work with,” said Hornets President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Mitch Kupchak. “His growth on and off the court has been tremendous. He’s a consummate professional and the kind of player that we want in Charlotte. He’s in the gym, he works hard, takes the game seriously, has a good support group. I’m very happy we got the deal done.”

Washington capitalized on an expanded role last season with a career-high 15.7 points on 44.4% shooting – 34.8% from 3-point range – 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks across a team-leading 73 starts. He was one of only five NBA players to total at least 50 steals, 75 blocks and 100 3-pointers (the others: Jaren Jackson Jr., Jaden McDaniels, Kristaps Porziņģis, and Derrick White), making him the 15th player in league history with multiple such seasons.

The now-25-year-old has also showcased a recent propensity for coming through in big spots. Amongst NBA players who took at least 50 field-goal attempts in clutch-time situations last season (score is within five points with five-or-fewer minutes to go), Washington’s 52.4% field-goal percentage was fourth best behind De’Aaron Fox, Bradley Beal, and Bam Adebayo.

Coming into the league, Washington quickly built a reputation as a knock-down corner 3-point specialist but has progressively added more and more to his game. His repertoire now includes more on-ball creation, some back-to-the-basket post moves, a workable floater and switchability out on the defensive perimeter.

“The biggest thing I’ve been working on this summer is getting more comfortable in the mid-range,” stated Washington. “I feel like I’m a good 3-point shooter and last year, I was really good going to the rim. I want to be more comfortable in my mid-range and scoring at all three levels.”

Last season, Washington converted 66.4% of his restricted-area field-goal attempts, a mark that was about the same as the year before (67.1% in 2021-22). His mid-range conversion rate came in at 35.2% (31-of-88), which was a sharp increase in both efficiency (28.6%) and total attempts (7) from his third NBA season. If Washington can hover around 70% in the restricted area again and get closer to 40% in the mid-range and from behind the arc, he could really emerge as the dynamic three-level scoring threat he’s hoping to become.

Bringing Washington back should allow the Hornets to occasionally experiment with more small-ball lineups, especially now that Miles Bridges is returning, as well. Last season, around 95% of Washington’s on-court minutes came at the power forward spot (the highest of his career), after he basically even split his time between the four and five the previous two years.

“He’s versatile enough where you can put him at several positions,” added Kupchak. “He just knows how to play. It’s a natural ability where you know where you’re supposed to be, what you have to do, when to take a shot, when not to take a shot. Coming in as a good, accomplished college player to becoming a consummate professional, which leads to the other things like taking care of yourself, video work, getting in the gym, working on your game, your shot, your weaknesses and trying to improve them. He’ll fit in wherever Coach Clifford puts him on the court. He’s not a player that says, ‘Well I have to play this position and so many minutes.’”

Washington’s Swiss-army-knife-like versatility makes him a valuable cog in the Hornets’ rotation and frankly, one they needed to bring back. Slowly, but surely, the team’s frontcourt unit is becoming more fortified, with Washington now entrenched as one of its core centerpieces.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball,” he said. “I like being on the floor. So, whatever the coach asks me to do, I’m going to do it and try and get a win for my team. That’s my mindset going into it and the result is the result. I try and come out, be myself and give everything I can to help the team win.”