P.J. Hairston has talent. He’s just 6’5, which isn’t tall for a shooting guard, but his 6’9 reach more than makes up for it. He’s a powerful athlete that wouldn’t have any trouble playing immediately in the NBA. In fact, of all the players likely going in the second half of the first round, he might be the most NBA ready, after playing in the D-League this past season. He can shoot, has good defensive potential and is an aggressive and physical player.
So what’s the catch?
As a guest on the latest Raptors Weekly Podcast, I mentioned certain red flags that would completely turn me off drafting a player1, and Hairston has a couple of them.
After a successful sophomore season at North Carolina, Hairston was dismissed from the team after a months long investigation showed he had broken numerous NCAA rules (and not just silly ones). Hairston also has shown questionable behaviour on the court, doesn’t seem to have a high basketball IQ, despite having two years at North Carolina and a year in the D-League, and to top it off has been known to lose focus and lack intensity far too often.
A veteran team with strong leadership and a good team structure might be able to handle developing a player like Hairston and handle his influence, but for a young team his presence could hurt both him and the team.
He’s got some Mitch Richmond in his game, but he also reminds a little too much of Isaiah Rider, someone you probably don’t want to be compared to.
The thing is that Hairston could definitely help the Raptors and is one of the few players they could draft at 20 who could step in and contribute immediately. Normally to gamble on a player in the late first round means drafting a project, but Hairston has a fully developed game and in the right situation, could thrive. I’m just not sure the Raptors are in any position to make that gamble.