Years Pro: 1
Status: After playing most of rookie season on two-way contract, signed standard contract on April 7.
Key Stats: Appeared in 48 NBA games, starting seven. Averaged 9.9 points and 1.8 assists while shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from 3-point range.
Duane Washington Jr. made the most of his opportunities in 2021-22, parlaying unexpected minutes into a late-season contract signing.
After going undrafted out of Ohio State, Washington agreed to a two-way deal with Indiana. Two-way contracts are designed for player development, allowing young players the opportunity to get game action in the G League while also getting experience being around the NBA roster for stretches of the year.
That was certainly the expectation for Washington. He had a strong Summer League, averaging 10.4 points and shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range over five games in Las Vegas, took part in training camp with the Pacers, and then reported to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
For the first two months of the season, Washington's rookie year went as planned. He appeared in just three of Indiana's first 33 games for a total of seven minutes. But he did get extended run in the G League, averaging 19.9 points and 4.1 assists while hoisting nearly 10 threes per game over 11 contests.
PHOTO GALLERY: Duane Washington Jr.'s 2021-22 Season in Photos »
Then in December, the omicron variant hit the Pacers. As players shuffled in and out of the health and safety protocols, Washington found himself thrust into the rotation. He started his first career game on New Year's Eve against Chicago, going 3-for-14 from the field and 0-for-6 from 3-point range over 30 minutes. But he was much better two nights later in Cleveland, dropping 20 points and going 4-for-9 from beyond the arc.
That was the start of four straight games in double figures for Washington, who quickly proved he could score at the highest level. As the injury bug continued to bite the Pacers, Washington appeared in all but one game in January, averaging 11.3 points on 40 percent 3-point shooting.
On Jan. 24 in New Orleans, Washington set a new rookie franchise record, going 7-for-12 from 3-point range. Five days later in Dallas, he scored a career-high 22 points.
Photo Credit: Matt Kryger
Like most rookies do, Washington hit a bit of a wall in February. His scoring average and 3-point percentage dipped to 7.1 points per game and 29.3 percent, respectively. But he rebounded nicely, scoring 12.1 points per game and shooting 41.2 percent from long distance in March, including another 22-point game on March 13 in Atlanta. He was even better in April, averaging 13.4 points on 46.2 percent shooting over the final five games of the year.
All told, Washington wound up playing in 48 games and starting seven. He averaged 9.9 points and shot 37.7 percent from 3-point range on the year, impressively ranking 12th in scoring and fourth in 3-point percentage among rookies who played in at least 40 games.
While Washington is a proven scorer, his offseason focus will be on the other side of the ball. The 6-3 guard must prove himself capable of keeping his man in front of him on a consistent basis if he wants to continue to see the floor when more players are healthy.
Washington fit right in in the locker room in his first NBA season with his outgoing personality. He impressed at the Rookie Show at FanJam and brought plenty of fire and passion every time he took the floor, quickly endearing himself to his teammates and fans alike.
Three days before the season ended, Washington was rewarded with a standard contract. While two-way players are free agents every year, Washington secured a partial guarantee on a deal to return next season as part of Indiana's 15-man roster, a move that meant a great deal to him given where he started his rookie campaign.
"It's been a blessing," Washington reflected just after the season. "Super, super excited and super thankful for all the opportunities that the Pacers organization has given me. I owe it to them to play my heart out and put myself in the best position to be the best player I can be for this team and to help us win.
"But for me personally, all this was already written. It was hard for me to accept that, going undrafted and feeling like I should have been a part of those 60 guys. But for me, it's my story. Duane Washington Jr., there's only one of me and everybody's story is different."
Pacers fans will definitely be excited to see how the next chapter of Washington's story unfolds.
2022 Pacers.com Player Review Schedule
April 18: Tyrese Haliburton
April 19: Buddy Hield
April 20: Chris Duarte
April 21: Isaiah Jackson
April 22: Oshae Brissett
April 23: Malcolm Brogdon
April 24: Goga Bitadze
April 25: Myles Turner
April 26: Duane Washington Jr.
April 27: T.J. McConnell
April 28: Jalen Smith
April 29: Lance Stephenson
April 30: Terry Taylor