P.J. Washington: Even Better in Person
6’8”, 230-pounds, 7’2.25” wingspan, 34” max vertical at 2018 combine, turns 21 in August, ranked 5th by Hamilton:
I was fortunate to have seen live a few of the players I’ve been writing about here. I’ll acknowledge it may not be fair to make many judgments after seeing a player up close only once or twice. What has always been interesting is just how different some players’ impact looks live from how they look on TV. Seeing live games gives you more of a sense of how physical a player is. You can see more human interaction between teammates and opponents. Because high level ball is much more physical than it looks on TV, you can more easily observe player’s impact on some of the less-measurable things like help defense, blocking out, checking cutters, communicating. After seeing guys live I sometimes to get (a little too) high or (a little too) low on them. Evan Turner was a guy I was down on for this reason (but I feel like I was right on that one). Tyler Herro of the earlier pro/con writeup was another player I just saw as concerningly flawed. I’m mainly laying this out because I bring biases to this (who doesn’t?) and I ranked P.J. Washington higher than most big boards I’ve seen.
This is a player I really liked after two games in three days at the 2019 Midwest Regional. He didn’t play in Kentucky’s first two tournament games due to an injury, but he came in off the bench in the Sweet 16 matchup with Houston and looked good for having not played in a real game for two weeks. He probably played a little more in the 2nd half than John Calipari would have liked but the game got too close to let him sit. He ended up with 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting and a huge block with under 30 seconds left that led to my man Tyler Herro hitting the game winner. Two days later versus Auburn, Washington had 28 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, while making 2 of 4 threes. Aside from Reid Travis, the rest of Kentucky’s bigs were unplayable in that game.
Another thing you don’t always get on TV is a good sense of the size of players in relation to one another. On TV, Washington doesn’t look like much physically. He’s an average-sized NBA player at 6-8 and 230 pounds.
But in-person he looks a little taller. It’s as if his shoulders are the height of a 6’10 player. He’s maybe a couple inches away from being the perfect sized four in the NBA. A 7-2 wingspan and an 8-10 standing reach make up for that though.
He’s the son of a coach with solid foundational skills (his mom played D1 ball too) who seems to have a sense of where he wants to operate and how to find spaces in those areas. He works a lot across the lane lines just under the rim finding space for dump-offs and offensive rebounding position. Speaking of offensive rebounds, he averaged over 2-per-game in both seasons at Kentucky. Once he’s able to go up around the basket, his long arms make him hard to stop. He’s never in a hurry with the ball in the post and can score from all over the lane with both hands. He has a nice little push shot like the one Steven Adams and Marc Gasol use so effectively. Some of what he does and where he operates reminds me of Antawn Jamison.
Earlier I mentioned things you see players do live that you may not always catch at first viewing on TV. Washington does those things. Not only that, but in those games I watched it was evident that Kentucky had a different belief when Washington was on the floor and rolling. His teammates looked for him to lead, to make plays, and keep them as poised as they could be in those do-or-die moments. It was a visible intangible and Washington, returning from injury, was up for the challenge. Kentucky came up just short to Auburn but not because of this player. It was primarily because they couldn’t stop any penetration (see my earlier writeup on Tyler Herro). I ranked P.J. Washington 5th on my big board and I have no reason to doubt he’ll be up to the challenge of meeting that ranking.