While most NBA mock drafts had former Kentucky forward PJ Washington going No. 13 to the Miami Heat leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets couldn’t help but slide in and snag him a pick before at No. 12.
Why? The 6-foot-7 power forward “checked all the boxes” for the franchise.
During Washington’s introductory press conference, Charlotte GM Mitch Kupchak said the former Wildcat was a perfect candidate for their lottery selection both on and off the floor.
“We take into a lot of factors, besides just the ability to play, [we look at] their character, work habits and teammates. [PJ Washington] checked all the boxes,” he said.
In terms of Washington’s specific skill set, Kupchak said he loves his versatility on both ends of the floor.
“He is very versatile. He can be very athletic and skilled,” he said. “He can rebound, shoot the ball and he is long. He made a huge jump from his freshman year to his sophomore year. If he can continue to make that kind of jump, then he will be a good player in this league for a long time.”
During the press conference, Washington said he has leaned on his former Kentucky teammates Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for advice when he gets rolling in the league. And according to the newest Hornet, it has allowed him to get a solid idea of what he’ll have to prepare for both physically and mentally.
“I talked to some of my former teammates in the past in Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander,” he said. “They’ve been telling me how long the season and how I have to keep working on my body, and I’m listening to them. I’m ready to come in here focused and ready to learn.”
The former Wildcat couldn’t end the presser without acknowledging Kentucky head coach John Calipari in helping him grow over the two years he was in Lexington.
Without him, he says he wouldn’t be in the position he is in right now.
“He’s helped me grow so much as a person as so much as a player as well,” Washington said of Calipari. “On the court, he has helped me from the second I set foot in Kentucky. I really can’t thank him enough.”
Make us proud in the league, PJ.