After establishing himself as one of the most reliable players on the team in the 2012-13 College Basketball season, the North Carolina Tar Heels were expecting junior guard P.J. Hairston to be a leader for their team this season, contributing with versatile offense and underrated defensive prowess on his way to the 2014 NBA Draft. Things played out a little differently.
This summer, Hairston was pulled over in a traffic stop in an SUV rental that was linked to a convicted felon. There were many other wrinkles to the story, but the gist of the matter is that an NCAA investigation ensued, leaving Hairston on the sidelines to start the season for the Heels. The university then announced that they would not seek reinstatement for the junior, effectively ending his career at UNC.
There were some that believed that Hairston would be taking his talents overseas leading up to the draft to keep his game polished and to possibly improve his stock, but he’s taking another route to do so it seems.
According to a report from Jeff Goodman at ESPN, Hairston has filed paperwork to play in the NBA D-League, a route similar to the one that current Washington Wizards rookie Glen Rice Jr. took after being dismissed from Georgia Tech.
In the report, Goodman also says that several NBA executives have Hairston listed as a “fringe first-rounder” in terms of where he’ll go in the draft. Draft Express currently has Hairston going with the 28th overall pick, but several other mock drafts have him out of the first round, which seemingly backs up what the NBA higher-ups are saying.
Hairston is a talented shooter who netted 39.6 percent of his attempts from three last season, but also is a strong, athletic body that can attack and finish at the rim. His 14.6 points per game in just 23.6 minutes per last season are evidence of his offensive prowess. Meanwhile, he’s also a pesky defender on the other end of the floor. Hairston’s solid size, strength and quickness allow him to match up with different styles and have success as a defender.
The key for Hairston in the D-League is to come in and continue to show his ability on both ends of the floor and, possibly more importantly, to keep his nose clean. If he can come out and perform well in the D-League, the only real detriment to his draft stock is possible concerns about his character after the NCAA investigation. If he can do something to shed those concerns while playing well on the court, he could definitely find his way back into the first round of the 2014 Draft.