PJ Washington, forward, Kentucky, 12th overall pick
PJ Washington was selected by the Charlotte Hornets as the 12th pick in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft. Washington originally was thought to be a player that could have entered the draft last year after his freshman campaign, but Washington opted to return to Kentucky for one more season and one more NCAA tournament run.
Washington is a rare case of a player returning to school and improving his first-round pick draft stock. He showcased a strong ability to stretch the floor as well as being capable of playing exceptionally in the low post.
Last season, Washington averaged 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game as well as a strong 42.3% clip from beyond the arc. Washington is a player that can step in right away and help the Hornets compete, although he may not see much time his first season in the NBA.
This comes down to the fact that if the Hornets bring back Kemba Walker, their roster is relatively set, with Miles Bridges, Dwayne Bacon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo, Cody Zeller and Willy Hernangomez already competing for frontcourt minutes. However, the 2020-21 season could be a great window of opportunity for Washington as many of those players, including Williams, Biyombo and Kidd-Gilchrist, will be off of the books.
While Washington has been noted to be a somewhat “safe” pick, he also provides a good amount of upside, something the Hornets have been chasing throughout their first-round picks for years.
Cody Martin, guard/forward, Nevada, 36th overall pick
The Hornets selected Cody Martin and Jalen McDaniels in the second round of the draft, at picks 36 and 52, respectively.
Cody Martin, the twin brother of Caleb Martin, attended NC State with his brother for his first two collegiate seasons before transferring to another Wolf Pack in Nevada.
Martin is a 6’7” wing that can both stretch the floor and defend at a high level. Cody shot 35.8% from 3-point land and had a very solid net rating of +25, meaning that when he was on the floor, Nevada was outscoring opponents by 25 points. Martin also finished with a 96.1 defensive rating per-100 possessions, a decent mark.
Martin ended up posting 12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season and only a 17.3% usage rating. Usage below 20% usually means a player played off the ball, not seeing many one-on-one offensive reps, which is likely due to his brother’s high scoring pedigree, though Cody may be the more refined player.
Jalen McDaniels, forward, San Diego State, 52nd overall pick
McDaniels, from San Diego State, posted 15.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, two offensive rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season. McDaniels has somewhat of a similar playstyle to fellow draftee PJ Washington, but McDaniels is unique in that he is extremely scrappy while also being electric at the same time.
For a big man, McDaniels was able to initiate offense for San Diego State more than expected, posting a 16.2% assist percentage, meaning that he was responsible for 16.2% of all available assists when he was on the floor. Other big men like Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes and Brandon Clarke all posted figures less than this.
The coaching staff and front office both have high opinions of Martin and McDaniels, players they have worked out multiple times.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak reportedly will assign all of his draftees to the G-League affiliate of the Hornets, the Greensboro Swarm, so that they can hone their skills in expanded playing time. This has become the norm for Charlotte, as a G-League assignment has helped former lottery picks Monk and Bridges sharpen their skills, as it likely will for Washington.
From here, the Hornets will begin to fill out the bottom of the training camp roster with Exhibit 10 contracts, which often have clauses that allow players signed to them to play in the G-League or convert to a two-way deal. The Hornets will also begin to sign players to play in 2019 Summer League and may already have a good idea about who they may want to pursue.
Caleb Martin, Cody Martin’s twin, may be signed by the Hornets to a two-way deal or training camp deal, as he was often projected to go higher than his brother and is a notable scorer, averaging 19.2 points per game compared to Cody’s 12.1. The Hornets may also look to homegrown talent for Summer League, having worked out North Carolina’s Luke Maye and NC State’s Torin Dorn multiple times, and both players could be in contention for two-way deals.
Regardless of how Charlotte fills out the rest of the roster in the early stages of free agency and training camp, if Walker chooses to stay, he is walking back to one of the most underrated young cores in the entire league.