Jan 6, 2013; Charlottesville, VA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard P.J. Hairston (15) during the game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Swarm and Sting: P.J. Hairston interview with Keeping it Heel


The Charlotte Hornets acquired Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston in the NBA Draft a few weeks ago. We recently did a Q&A with The Crimson Quarry to get another perspective on Noah Vonleh, so we are doing the same with P.J. Hairston. Swarm and Sting’s editor Reece Helms asked Keeping it Heel’s editor John Bauman a few questions about the former UNC star. Here are the questions and answers from that interview:

1. How great of a fit is P.J. Hairston with the Charlotte Hornets? In other words, could he have landed with a better fit than the Hornets?

John Bauman - I think P.J. is an excellent fit for the Hornets. Charlotte was thin on wing shooting all season long and were looking to add a floor spacer this off-season. Hairston fits the bill as not only a floor spacer but a complete all-around offensive player. Hairston proved he could shoot the rock at Carolina and in the D-League, and refined other parts of his game with the Texas Legends. I think PJ will come off the bench for Charlotte and make a real impact right away. I don’t know if there are any better fits than the Hornets because every team equally needs outside shooting, and that’s what Hairston brings to the table. What I mean by that is any of the late first round teams, like San Antonio, Miami, Oklahoma City or Houston could have used another three point shooter to come off the bench. I think he would have thrived playing with a star like Kevin Durant in OKC. Hairston would have had the easiest job in basketball- making wide open corner threes coming off of KD drives. But I don’t think any of those teams are better fits than Charlotte.

2. What are your expectations for P.J. Hairston’s rookie season? Will he have any more off-the-court issues?

John Bauman - I think PJ can come in and have an immediate impact off the bench. Last season, the Hornets averaged 6.3 three pointers per game in the regular season. I think Hairston boost that number up by chipping in two or three a game to average around 10 points for himself right off the bat in Charlotte. While you can’t really predict any off-the-court issues for any player, I don’t think Hairston will have any problems in his first season in Charlotte. Vets like Gerald Henderson and front office types like Michael Jordan will make sure PJ knows all the rules and what is expected of him. I also think spending a couple months in the D-League allowed PJ to mature and learn from his mistakes in Chapel Hill. All of that put together should lead to an incident free first season for Hairston.

3. What are some of Hairston’s strengths and weaknesses? What does he need to improve on before the season starts?

John Bauman - PJ’s strengths are quite clear- he offers three point shooting and instant offense off the bench. He is strong enough to be a complete offensive player with time and practice. He has quick, active hands on defense and should excel in Steve Clifford’s defensive system right away. His basketball weaknesses are related to ball handling and passing. I want to see Hairston work on his handle and passing so that once he gets to the NBA, the ball won’t stick to his hands and the offense won’t stall out with Hairston on the wings. He will do well on offense as a floor spacer and shooter, but he needs work on becoming a complete offensive player with smarter drives and passes.
4. How bad did P.J. Hairston’s behavior issues affect his draft stock? Do you think he could have been a lottery pick if he had never been dismissed from UNC?
John Bauman - Hairston was drafted 26th by the Miami Heat but probably could have landed in the lottery in an alternate universe in which he was never kicked off the team in Chapel Hill. A strong 2013-14 season at Carolina could have catapulted Hairston into the discussion starting with Denver at 11. He wouldn’t have been a top-10 pick, but wouldn’t have fallen past Oklahoma City at 21 with a clean behavioral slate. I also think Phoenix would have taken a long look at him at 14 and 18.
5. How much do you buy into Hairston’s D-League success? Can he transfer that success over into the NBA?
John Bauman - P.J. Hairston averaged 22 points and shot 35.8% from three point land with the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League. I think that experience was really valuable for his development. In the ACC, you may play up against three or four pro-quality players a night. In the D-League, every player is pro quality and really big and strong. As a 6’6″, 220 pound winger, Hairston had to learn how to drive against bigger, stronger defenders in the D-League.
I think that experience really translates to the NBA and will help him as he adjusts. You saw the learning curve with Cody Zeller last season as he adjusted from playing against boys at Indiana and men in Charlotte. I’m also not worried about Hairston’s low three point percentage with the Texas Legends. He was burdened with being the number one offensive option for Texas, so he forced up three pointers and didn’t receive as many open shots as he will playing with Big Al and Kemba in Charlotte.
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