This is the third of a daily look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft: Their strengths, their weaknesses, and whether or not they're a fit for the Celtics. Today's prospect: P.J. Hairston, formerly of North Carolina
P.J. HAIRSTON, Texas Legends (NBA D-League via North Carolina)
6-foot-5, 229 pounds
HIS STORY: Buyer beware. To say P.J. Hairston has had some off-the-court issues would be a bit of an understatement. Despite his considerable talents, NBA teams will look long and hard at Hairston’s character. Since enrolling at North Carolina in 2011, Hairston has had many run-ins with law enforcement and the NCAA. Finally, Roy Williams suspended him indefinitely before the start of last season over an incident involving rental cars belonging to an ex-convict that Hairston drove. Hairston was expected to be UNC's best player, leading a team that could contend for an ACC title and a possible long run in the NCAA tournament. The suspension turned into an expulsion in December when the university did not apply to the NCAA for his reinstatement, thus ending his career at UNC. Instead of transferring to another program, he left college and was picked up by the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League.
HIS STRENGTHS: Hairston’s biggest strength is his sweet, jump-shooting stroke. He came on late in his sophomore year at UNC, averaging just under 15 points-per-game with an impressive True Shooting percentage of 59.1 (combination of 2-point, weighted 3-point, and free-throw shooting accuracy). His shooting skills immediately translated to the D-League, unaffected by the longer 3-point line, where he averaged 21.8 points while shooting 45 percent from the field (2.8 made 3s per game). In addition to his stroke, he’s got a big frame at nearly 230 pounds. He’s a strong guard, and once he can get his shoulder into your body it’s very hard to stop him without fouling him.
HIS WEAKNESSES: : Hairston can be a knock-down shooter at the next level, but is he going to be able to get his own shot? He doesn't have a quick first step, nor is he great at breaking down defenders off the dribble. Beyond not being able to create for himself, he’s not one to create for his teammates, either. His assist rate with the Texas Legends was an almost unheard of 4.1 percent, as he mustered only 21 assists in 839 minutes of play. On the defensive side of the ball, Hairston is known to take plays off. His 6-foot-9 1/2 wingspan helps him physically, but he lacks the desire to be a good defender on the next level.
IS HE A FIT FOR THE CELTICS? Simply put, Hairston does not fit in Boston’s team or culture. He has first-round talent but could easily slip to the second round, not just because of the off-court issues but also because GMs may not believe his scoring success in the D-League will translate to the NBA. The combination of both those things will probably land Hairston in the second round. However, he could become a rotation guy off the bench if he can stay out of trouble and consistently stretch the court with his pretty jumper.
COMING ON FRIDAY: DeAndre Daniels of Connecticut.