Thunder Draft Preview (P.J. Hairston)

By Randy Renner

Every day leading up to Thursday night's NBA Draft we're profiling players the Thunder may be interested in taking with either their 21st or 29th picks in the first round.

As we head into this last week leading up to the draft we'll be looking at two and sometimes three players a day so keep clicking back for updates and be sure to follow our twitter feed fore more on those updates.

P.J. HAIRSTON (Shooting Guard, North Carolina/Texas Legends)

P. J. Hairston is a shooter and with what appears to be an opening at the 2-guard spot the Thunder could use a shooter.

Trouble is that may be all Hairston is and the Thunder would prefer to have a bit more.

The so-called “3 & D” guy, is what they’d like. Someone who can knock down open threes consistently and play at least solid defense on the other end.

Hairston has the potential to be that guy and at times during his stay at the University of North Carolina and his time this past season with the D-League’s Texas Legends he was that guy. His defense tailed off toward the end of the Legends season and he seemed much more concerned about leaking out after a shot than trying to grab a rebound but some of that can be attributed to the D-League’s style of play in general and the Legends’ in particular.

If you don’t already know Hairston got into a spot of trouble at UNC and that’s why he finished the season with the Legends and not the Tar Heels.

He was suspended by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits after driving a car rented by a local party promoter. Hairston also was caught speeding with two other people in a rental car paid for by the same promoter. Seven weeks later, on July 28, 2013, Hairston was stopped for speeding and reckless driving, and was suspended indefinitely by North Carolina coach Roy Williams. The school did not seek his reinstatement by the NCAA, and Hairston joined the Legends.

Once in the D-League Hairston’s offensive game carried him. He averaged 21.8 points on 45.3 percent shooting. He averaged putting up eight 3-balls a game and hit 36 percent of those shots.

Hairston was outstanding in transition, according to D-League advanced stats 27.9 percent of his possessions came on the break and he averaged 1.27 points per each of those possessions to rank second among shooting guards in the draft.

He has nice size at 6-6 and 230. He’s very physical and loves to play aggressively so it appears his body at least is NBA-ready.

Scouts love his shooting mechanics and he can be especially deadly coming off screens and dribble hand-offs. He wasn’t as good with his feet set, but in transition in an up tempo offense he can be really good. Plus he’s an outstanding free throw shooter, hitting 87 percent of his attempts from the line for the Legends.

Defensively, Hairston has all the tools. His wingspan is just shy of 6-10, and his solid body allows him to defend small forwards and stretch-4s too.

Scouts say he’s able to fight through screens and with that length he can get into passing lanes and force turnovers. The problem is Hairston hasn’t always brought the energy and effort to accomplish that consistently. In fact late in the Legend’s season some complained that he’d completely lost interest in defense and appeared to play at only about half speed.

You’d like to think that wouldn’t be a problem in the NBA but the Thunder had some guys this past season who didn’t bring it on D all the time and that’s something several players admitted to in their exit interviews and acknowledged the need to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen next season.

I don’t think the Thunder are worried about Hairston’s off-court problems at UNC carrying over but they have to be sure he’s committed to playing defense before they spend that 21st pick. If Hairston is ready to do that he could be an outstanding player.

Randy RennerComment