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After a promising rookie season, expectations were high for P.J. Washington coming into the 2020-21 season. While he took a step forward in his sophomore year, it wasn’t the jump many expected which could make him expendable this offseason.
Still, Washington had plenty of high points on the season, showcasing vital versatility between playing as a power forward or a center that allowed the Hornets to play multiple different ways.
Washington had hot stretches, including 42 points in a memorable comeback win in Sacramento. But those were often intertwined with low stretches, like the 19 games that followed that outburst in which he averaged just 9.9 points on 35.1% 3-point shooting.
Now, is he more valuable to Charlotte as a versatile big man with potential or as a trade asset for a more immediate answer to their needs?
Stat of the Season
Washington took criticism for his offensive inconsistencies, but defensively, he was the best option for the team at the center position. In 892 minutes with Washington as the small ball center, the Hornets had a defensive rating of 108.3, a figure that would rank fifth in the league. The team also had a plus-4.7 net rating in those minutes as well.
Notable Exit Interview Quote
On making a jump this summer heading into year three…
“I think for me, I have a lot of room for improvement, I feel like I have a lot of things I can improve on and, obviously, I want to make a big jump next year. I think it’s going to help the team if I do that and the team kind of needs me to do that. So, I have to put in a lot of work in the summer and I’m pretty excited to do that. I’m really excited to get better. I just can’t wait to see what the season has in store for us next year.”
Washington was one of the few mainstays in the starting lineup this season for Charlotte, playing in 64 of the 72 games and starting in 61 of them. While the Hornets often searched for answers at the center position, Washington almost always remained in the lineup in that shuffling.
Statistically, his numbers between year one and year two are nearly identical. Across the board, Washington took very small jumps in production, increasing his points per game by seven-tenths, his rebounding per game by nine-tenths and his blocks per game by four-tenths.
From an efficiency standpoint, Washington took a step back as an overall shooter but a step forward as a 3-point shooter, knocking down 38.6% of his long-range efforts.
Again, though, the problems lied in his inconsistency. He had 23 games where he failed to reach double digits in scoring. Rebounding continues to be an area of improvement as he reached double figures only 13 times.
When he’s on, Washington can have nights like his 42-point outing in Sacramento or his 22 points and 12 rebounds in a blowout win over Boston. But he can also have games like against Phoenix when he fails to score in 44 minutes on the floor.
If fans are looking for a glass-half-full approach, they don’t have to look far. Some of these same discussions were being held about Miles Bridges after his sophomore season and he not only burst out this season for Charlotte but became one of the franchise’s most important players.
The question is if the Hornets are willing or can afford to take the risk of waiting one more year for Washington to develop or if they even think Washington can make the jump Bridges can. He’s still a young big that can play either the four or five, has shown flashes on both ends and could be a vital piece to unlocking the Hornets in the future.
If Charlotte trades him, it will need to be for an instant impact player.