Physically a brick wall at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, P.J. Hairston has the body of a ready NBA player and could be the draftee most used to the professional game at this point. His D-League stint this year saw the North Carolina product average 21.8 points on 45 percent field goal shooting, numbers that stack up well for a volume shooter. Hairston shot 36 percent from three-point range with the Texas Legends and has the potential to become a strong defender of either the 2 or 3 spots in the league.
“He’s strong, he can get it up,” said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek when Hairston worked out for the team on Thursday. “He shoots it from deep. He’s got a high arc so he can get it above everybody. That’s hard to do. Usually when a guy gets tired, you lose your strength to get your shot.”
Hairston started out hot in the D-League before coasting to the finish, and it’s that lack of consistent effort he’ll have to overcome to produce in the NBA. Because he’s not a fantastic athlete, Hairston could use some work in becoming more than a jump shooter, and at that he could stand to improve his feel for the game — he often times would force shots rather than look for teammates or run the offense. The biggest question of all is in regards to Hairston’s character. He was dismissed from North Carolina after allegedly accepting illegal benefits and also being pulled over and cited for marijuana possession.
“I just try to look at it like the past,” Hairston said this week. “I kind of look past it. I kind of put all those things aside and started looking at the future. I feel like, once I did that, it made everything easier on me and not have to worry about everything that happened in the past.”
Immediately, Hairston could fix his lapses in effort to become a dangerous scorer. He has a head-start on many of his peers having played professionally in the D-League, and a lot of his success or failure will come down to how he plays within a team. That comes both offensively, where he could improve his IQ, to defensively, where he will have to be locked in and familiar with team defensive concepts. That’s not to say he didn’t do that in two years under coach Roy Williams, who put his name behind Hairston even after the school refused to reinstate him this past season.
So far in the draft process, Hairston appears to be selling himself as a two-way player.
“I feel like I can put the ball in the basket and I can be a defensive problems for many teams,” Hairston said. “I feel that every night I want to guard the best player.”
How would he fit on the Suns
Like any other NBA team, the Suns would surely be happy to bring on a talented shooter who could eventually grow into a similar bench role as Gerald Green (though obviously without the ability to create his own shot so easily). Hairston has much individual offensive potential but although he might be limited by his lack of playmaking skills, he’d at least have to prove that he’s committed to playing team-first basketball. If the Suns think he could do that, then they might give Hairston some thought with their 27th overall pick. He is currently slate to go 24th by Draft Express.