G P.J. Hairston, Junior, 6-6, 220 lbs
Perhaps the biggest, and assuredly the most asked question pertaining to the 2014 Tar Heels is to what effect will the "Summer of P.J." have on both the team, and the player. With respect to the former, it is clear that Hairston will miss a (yet to be determined) number of games; and in these games, Carolina will certainly be a different, and likely lesser, team. Will his absence cost the Heels wins? Possibly. Will those losses, if they do manifest, have any significant impact on the season? Again, the answer is possibly, but that impact could be lessened, or even completely obviated based on how UNC plays once Hairston is fully reinstated to the lineup. Which brings us to the second, more important question: how will the "Summer of P.J." actually effect Hairston when he eventually gets on the court?
The answer? Probably about as much as signing a bunch of autographs effected Johnny Manziel...
Look, there is a reason why the "#PJbe__________"-hashtags were so common during Tar Heel games last season; it's because Hairston appears to be the type of player who can go out on the court, ignore everything, and just ball. And this is why the expectation of many, including myself, is that once Hairston returns to the lineup, he will pick up right where he left off last season: as one of the most efficient scorers in the ACC. Despite starting only 14 games last season, and averaging less than 24 minutes per game, Hairston still managed to lead the team in scoring (14.6 ppg) and finish 3rd in rebounding (4.3 rpg), resulting in an elite offensive rating of 120.4, which was good enough for 5th in the ACC. More importantly, over the last 13 games of the season, coinciding with Hairston's insertion into the starting lineup, his averages jumped to 18.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg, while increasing his FG% to 44.7 and his 3P% to 40.2 and maintaining a FT% in the upper 70s (77.2).
So what can we expect from Hairston this season? It is probably reasonable to assume that what Hairston did at the end of the last season was not a fluke, and given the penchant for players to blossom in Roy's system during their junior season (if you need a list, you haven't been paying attention), it's possible that that 13-game stretch was just the tip of the iceberg. At 6'6", a legit 220 pounds, and an explosive first-step, Hairston is a prototypical NBA athlete, with the type of skills to put up a 50/40/90 slash line (FG%/3P%/FT%) for the season. Given the volume of touches he is likely to receive, that type of efficiency, or even close to that type efficiency, would certainly put him amongst the top five players in the ACC, and could put him in the running for ACC Player or the Year. Of course, this all assumes that there is no recidivism on Hairston's part. How likely is this? Only Hairston can know for sure, but the hope is that, at the very least, even if no lessons have been learned, the rigors of the college basketball season will be enough to keep him suitably occupied.
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