Charlotte Hornets: 3 Keys to a Deep Playoff Run

Charlotte Hornets LaMelo Ball. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Charlotte Hornets LaMelo Ball. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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Charlotte Hornets
PJ Washington (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

In an up-and-down season, PJ Washington has been at his best at the center position

On a good night, PJ Washington will show that he is essentially positionless, can make his defenders pay by knocking down his three-point attempts, and can bring intensity to the defensive end. On a bad night, he will struggle to hold onto the ball down low, refuse to make the hustle plays to offset a poor shooting night, and display a sense of disinterest while on the court.

The problem for the Hornets is: you never know which version of Washington you will get.

After a stellar rookie campaign, Washington has had to make up some ground in his sophomore season. The aforementioned “bad nights” seemed to be a recurring thing for him. However, he has proved in the second half of the season that he can still produce and his first season was no fluke.

Hornets coach James Borrego has seemingly shuffled up his big man rotation on a nightly basis. Some nights, you will see a ton of Bismack Biyombo at center and Cody Zeller not getting rotational minutes, or vice versa. Recently, Borrego has shown more confidence in Washington playing the five in his small-ball lineup.

Since Washington returned from a three-game absence due to an ankle injury suffered in the April 11th loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Borrego has experimented more with the smaller lineup. In two of the three games since his return (excluding a disappointing blowout to the Chicago Bulls), Washington has outplayed his fellow big men at the center position in both minutes and production while thriving in his role off the bench.

One thing is clear: Washington is very capable as a center. In a league that covets big men that possess a shooting touch and can guard multiple positions, Washington fits in very well and fills a void for Charlotte. If he can remain consistent and finish the season much better than he started it, Borrego’s small-ball lineup could lead the team to a ceiling we have yet to see.

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