Charlotte Hornets Player Preview: Can PJ Washington reclaim his starting role?

PJ Washington, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
PJ Washington, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

The Charlotte Hornets kick off their 2021-22 campaign on Oct. 20 against the Indiana Pacers and expectations are quite high for this year’s team. The players have made it known that it’s a playoff or bust mentality as they want to get to the postseason and win a series.

P.J. Washington likely has goals of his own as he gears up for a very critical year three. If the preseason is foreshadowing the regular season, Washington has lost his starting spot to Miles Bridges and will be coming off the bench to start this season.

Washington will still be amongst the main contributors on the team as he will spend a lot of his time playing small ball five behind Mason Plumlee. However, losing his starting gig has to be frustrating for the third-year forward.

PJ Washington is still a core member of this roster but finds himself coming off the bench. However, the opportunity to start isn’t completely out the window.

Washington burst onto the scene in his rookie season, showcasing his range by knocking down seven three-pointers, the most in an NBA debut in league history. He would go on to average 30.3 minutes, 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while starting in 57 of 58 games.

His rookie season had fans thrilled about what the future could hold. A versatile big man who could stretch the court was something the Hornets had been looking for. He could (and still could) be a perfect role player on a contending team.

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In year two, Washington didn’t take much of a jump from his rookie season, and because of that fan opinion of him may have been pushed back. Last season he averaged 30.5 minutes, 12.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game while starting in 61 of 64 games. A very similar stat line to his rookie year. Even his three-point shooting percentage took a small jump going from 37.4% to 38.6%.

Everyone expected a little bit more from Washington and with his off the court drama circulating, he just didn’t look right. Bridges would end up taking advantage of his particular situation when he had to step into a starting role due to injuries and has now replaced Washington in the starting lineup.

How Washington responds is crucial. It’s a fresh year and he’ll still be given plenty of opportunities to make his mark on this team but if he continues to slide, his future in Charlotte could start to look shaky.

Barring a trade, we’re far away from having to cross that bridge. In the meantime, Washington is a core member of this team and should contribute good minutes off the bench. The best-case scenario for the Hornets is that Bridges continues to play like a starter and Washington becomes an excellent small ball five who can hold his own in the paint against more traditional bigs. This could see him be inserted back into the starting lineup ahead of Plumlee.

The lineup that the Hornets use to finish games is more important than how than the one they start the game with. Washington should still be a part of that five, and if he’s not then fans should have some cause for concern.

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