P.J. Hairston's stock for the upcoming 2014 NBA draft relies very heavily on a specific factor that is completely out of his control. Hairston will only be drafted as high as teams and scouts put weight in the performance of players in the NBA Developmental League.
Playing much of the 2013-14 season in the D-League in the first place is technically Hairston's fault. He was the one who got himself involved in questionable activities with suspicious people while at the University of North Carolina. He was the one who was linked to a convicted felon and got into hot water with the NCAA. Whether folks agree with North Carolina's decision not to reinstate Hairston this season, it was Hairston's fault there was a decision to be made at all.
That said, after he was dismissed from the Carolina program and turned to the D-League for his basketball limbo, the rest was out of his hands.
Hairston put up numbers from the very beginning of his NBDL career.
He put up huge games right up to the end of the regular season as well. His season season totals are impressive: 21.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game, with 45.3 percent shooting. He hit 2.8 threes per game and 87 percent of his foul shots. Hairston was a straight-up scorer this season, one of the best in the entire D-League. But that's the problem.
If Hairston had reached the same figures playing this season for UNC, his stock would be soaring. However, even though D-League competition is just as good, if not tougher than collegiate basketball, there is a stigma attached to it that says—channeling Whose Line is it Anyway?—the points don't matter. The numbers put up in the NBDL don't translate to NBA success.
There are many cases where this is true. There are also many cases of players putting up huge numbers in college who never pan out professionally. Yet those situations often are overlooked as a player being a "college guy" versus a "pro guy."
During early-season Tar Heels practices, head coach Roy Williams was quoted as saying Hairston was "the most dominating player on the perimeter in practice that I've ever coached." Hairston's future was still up in the air, and he was practicing with a team that would go on to beat all of the quads which held the top four spots in the AP preseason poll. And he was playing for a coach who had guided a string of championship squads in the past, many of them led by NBA-caliber guards. Williams said Hairston was better than them all.
That type of pontification does little to help P.J.'s draft stock now. He was never able to build on his successful sophomore season at Carolina, where he led the team in scoring and was an effective outside shooter. It is odd that a league made up of former NBA players, future NBA players and former college stars isn't thought of as highly as one with a majority of players who will never sniff a professional basketball paycheck.
However, that is the status of the D-League at the moment. And that status is what holds Hairston back from being a lottery pick, because he certainly has the talent and skills to deserve it.
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