PJ Washington decided to return to the Kentucky Wildcats for his sophomore season instead of sticking in the NBA Draft. He passed up a very good chance of being drafted at the back end of the first round for a chance to improve on his game and develop into a lottery talent.
The 6-7 power forward had a good freshman season. He averaged 10.8 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. He recorded three double-doubles and finished the season strong even though he was suffering through a broken pinky that he received during the comeback against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The lasting memory of 2018 in regards of PJ Washington was the tournament game in the Sweet Sixteen vs. the Kansas State Wildcats. Fans will focus on the 8-20 from the free throw line; but in reality PJ, was the best player on the floor for UK. He scored 18 points and nabbed 15 rebounds. He was a one-man wrecking crew.
When talking about what one thing he can improve on during this offseason, the easy answer would be free throw shooting. But there is a broader aspect to his game that if improved he could become one of the more dominant players in the SEC and could up his NBA stock.
At his height, Washington is actually undersized as a power forward in the NBA. If he was 2-3 inches taller, he would have been a first-round lock, but his height held him back.
In order for Washington to develop into the type of player that NBA GMs would be willing to take in the first round, he needs to become a better player on the perimeter. I’m not just talking about his ability to shoot threes exclusively. Washington needs to be better at creating off the dribble in space and manufacturing his own shot off the block.
He recently returned to practice having gone through surgery on his pinky. He is noticeably in better shape, and he is focusing on becoming more of an offensive threat from multiple positions on the court.
With so many weapons and the addition of Reid Travis, Washington will be freed up on offense, and he will be able to knock down open jumpers.
But is this best for Kentucky as a team? Washington won’t lose his ability to do damage in the paint if given the opportunity to do so. A more well rounded Washington is better for everyone on the team.
The Bahamas trip will be the first glimpse that we will get of the new and improved PJ Washington.