With a relatively thin front court, could the San Antonio Spurs consider drafting Kentucky big PJ Washington?
Although the San Antonio Spurs have stumbled out of the the gate to begin their annual Rodeo Road Trip, the Spurs are still clasping on to the 7th spot in the Western Conference. If these standing hold true for the remainder of the season the Spurs will be picking outside of the lottery, and more likely closer to the early 20’s of the 2019 NBA Draft.
In his latest draft predictions, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman projects that the San Antonio Spurs will select Kentucky’s PJ Washington with the 20th pick in the first round of the NBA Draft. If the big man does end up in the Alamo City, how could his skill set translate to the Spurs system?
A highly-touted recruit out of Dallas, Washington decided to take his talents to Lexington to join the Kentucky Wildcats and learn from the one-and-done guru John Calipari.
Washington had first round potential as a freshman and flirted with the prospect of going pro after just one season with the Wildcats, but opted to return for his sophomore season to further develop. It’s safe to say Washington made the right choice as he’s matured as a leader while becoming Kentucky’s main workhorse and solidifying himself as one of the best bigs in college basketball.
The 6’8″ forward is averaging 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game on 51.3 percent shooting from the floor.
What’s more impressive is the work PJ put into fortifying his three-point stroke.
During his freshman season Washington was shooting an underwhelming 23.8 percent from long range, attempting just 21 three-point baskets. However, through 23 games Washington has more than doubled his attempts from a season ago by jacking up 49 attempts thus far showing increased confidence in his ability to knock down the trifecta.
Washington has bumped up his three-point percentage mightily, canning an impressive 44.9 percent from downtown. Although he’s not attempting a ridiculous amount of threes, the ability to knock down treys with consistency and poise as a big will be an enticing characteristic for scouts and NBA teams looking for the next stretch-4 to plug into their lineup.
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Offensively, Washington can do just about everything. He’s a versatile player who can score at all three levels.
He’s made noticeable improvements to his footwork and positioning, which have allowed him to transform into a more polished finisher around the rim. Washington can be a matchup nightmare, leveraging his 6’8″ frame to back down smaller defenders in the post or utilizing his swift step to take opponents off the dribble.
Defensively, PJ has all the makings of a solid but not stellar defender, whose size and length will allow him to guard across multiple positions. Washington is currently averaging 1.1 blocks per game which bodes well for his promise as a more than adequate interior/help defender, but I don’t expect him to be a significant shot blocker at the next level.
With regard to his fit with the Spurs, Washington would be an ideal addition to a team that is lacking a front court presence outside of LaMarcus Aldridge. Pau Gasol will more than likely not be on the squad next season, Jakob Poeltl’s adjustment to the squad has been a bit slower than most Spurs fans would care for, and that about sums up all of the bigs the Spurs currently have at their disposal.
Although LMA was just named as an All-Star, he’s only getting older and a potential backup should be under consideration in this year’s upcoming draft. The Spurs have used their last three first round picks to select guards (Lonnie Walker, Derrick White and Dejounte Murray).
Perhaps RC Buford and the front office will switch it up this year and draft a young big that can learn and develop under the tutelage of the quintessential big man in Aldridge.
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San Antonio would be a low-pressure situation where Washington could garner valuable experience in the G-League with the Austin Spurs as well as off the bench as he tries to carve out a role on the team.
In a draft class teeming with talented bigs, Washington might be the one that stands out amongst the crowd as the next building block to add to San Antonio’s young and exciting core.
Here are some other prospects the Spurs may take a hard look at this year: