What is going on with PJ Washington?

I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does.

PJ Washington is a restricted free agent and it’s now been a month since the start of the free agent moratorium, but he and the Charlotte Hornets haven’t been able to come to an agreement on a new contract, and no other team has come forward with an offer sheet for him to sign. The assumption is that the Hornets would match just about any offer Washington got given his restricted free agency, and that’s surely scared teams off. Still, you’d think something would have happened by now.

Instead, it seems the chatter has only gotten quieter in recent days/weeks. Chatter on the Internet has suggested that Washington wants something in the $18-$20 million range. If that’s the case, the Hornets clearly disagree and seem to value him somewhere closer to the $12 million mid-level exception.

Both sides have left themselves with few options now that the free agent pool has dried up and every other team has used up their cap space. If the Hornets don’t retain Washington, there aren’t any good options to replace him with on the open market. No team has cap space to offer Washington the contract that he wants.

It seems we’re barreling towards one almost inevitable outcome–the sides can’t reach common ground, so PJ Washington signs his qualifying offer. That’ll essentially have him on a one year contract for $8.5 million. That’s the same thing Miles Bridges did a few weeks ago.

The Bridges situation is understandable. Washington’s is more frustrating. Players rarely sign their qualifying offers. Two players on the same team in the same free agency period doing so is unprecedented. There’s no way for us to know why it’s happening, but it’s not a great look for the organization. It almost seems as though the team was relying on another team setting Washington’s market with an offer sheet and when no team did that, the front office couldn’t figure out a fair way to value him.

While he may not be quite worth his reported asking price, Washington is a very valuable asset to the Hornets. Haggling over a few million dollars while operating over the cap and well short of the luxury tax seems silly. The Hornets are setting themselves up to potentially have both Washington and Bridges as unrestricted free agents (along with Gordon Hayward, but he probably walks). That puts their long term roster construction in a bit of peril. They could bring both back with bird rights. They could even let one walk and take a big free agency swing, but they could strike out on that and end up with a thinning roster.

It’s not an ideal situation to be in as we reach August. For as frustrating as PJ’s inconsistencies can be, he’s a rare player with his defensive versatility, outside shooting, and above average passing. It’s in the Hornets’ best interest to retain him both as a player and an asset, and it’s frustrating that we’ve made it this far with seemingly no traction.

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