Stats: 15.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 52.2% FG
As a sophomore, Wildcats forward PJ Washington rejuvenated his game on multiple fronts. First and foremost, the range of his jump shot increased drastically compared to his freshman season.
After shooting just 23.8% from behind the arc last year, Washington nearly doubled his percentage by shooting 42.3% on three-point attempts as a sophomore. Secondly, his ability to act as a vocal leader on and off the hardwood excelled in unison.
The second year big man, accompanied by graduate transfer Reid Travis, had a veteran command on the Kentucky locker room fans (and the coaching staff) weren’t used to having. Washington led the team in both scoring and rebounds while also rapidly increasing his NBA Draft stock.
Sullinger was a star at Ohio State and was bested by Anthony Davis & co. during the NCAA Tournament on Kentucky’s road to their ninth national championship. As a NBA player, Sullinger saw his role as a limited starter and preferred role player off the bench.
Though he only saw the floor for 269 total games (258 with the Boston Celtics), Sullinger brought roughly the same skillset to the table as Washington: an outside jump shot with exceptional moves around the basket and an effort on the glass.
Sullinger’s one problem that stunted his professional career was his work ethic, an area of which Washington most certainly trumps him.
Gibson is still active in the NBA, managing to outlast Sullinger and play his 11th career season and second for the Minnesota Timberwolves this past year. Like Gibson, Washington’s build is more athletic than Sullinger and his range of shooting is also relatively similar to the current Timberwolve.
Ultimately, Gibson has had a solid career as a key role player on good-to-great teams (see Derrick Rose’s Chicago Bulls). If Washington can sustain the same work ethic, there’s a place for him in The Association.
The Celtics and Al Horford are in an interesting situation heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft, as the team is expected to lose All-NBA point guard Kyrie Irving to free agency and Horford likely won’t exercise his player option for the upcoming season.
While Horford has excelled in Boston under head coach Brad Stevens and could most certainly end up signing a new deal, there’s also the possibility that he could test free agency waters. With such a young roster, the Celtics could also entertain drafting Washington and stashing him behind Horford for few seasons to learn from one of the more coveted veterans in the big league.
Miami is in need of an upgrade at the 4 spot, but if nothing else, they need depth here in a bad way. Washington could fill that need in a big way, and he could become a starter in 2020-21 when Kelly Olynx potentially hits free agency (has a player option for 2020).
If Washington were to end up in Miami, he would join former Wildcats Pat Riley and Bam Adebayo. A frontcourt of Bam and PJ would have a lot of the Big Blue Nation tuning into Heat games next season.
San Antonio’s All-Star power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge, will enter free agency this summer. At 33 years of age, the Spurs wouldn’t be crazy to let him test the market and potentially even allow him to walk.
With their back court ultimately set, as well as Aldridge’s FA decision looming, there also isn’t the most abundant depth in the Spurs’ front court. Washington is one of the most mature prospects in the draft and presents a high floor, two aspects San Antonio is historically known for.
All of the buzz recently has been the Miami Heat are taking a hard look at Washington with the 13th pick, and that’s become the popular prediction on mock drafts. It’s a great fit that would allow Washington to have a significant role right away for a playoff contender, then slowly work his way into a starting role over time.