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Before the NBA playoffs started, the Dallas Mavericks didn't have a bonafide third scoring option on the team. Tim Hardaway Jr. finished the regular season as the third-leading scorer, but that number is kind of inflated because of his hot start to the season, which cooled off around February when his 3-point shot was anything but automatic, and his playing time slowly decreased. When the Mavericks did a sign-and-trade for Grant Williams last summer, the thought was that he could be that third guy, capable of being the lockdown perimeter defender, while knocking down triples off feeds from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on the other end. 

That never really came to fruition for Williams or the Mavericks. He was quickly jettisoned to the Charlotte Hornets in February for PJ Washington, a slightly taller yet not as strong forward, who, like Williams, has shown flashes of being an impactful player but has also gone through dreadful stretches of inefficiency. The Mavericks were obviously banking on the former to become true, but it wasn't until the playoffs started that he really showed on a consistent basis that he could be the third option the Mavericks needed.

PJ Washington
DAL • PF • #25
2024 Playoffs
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Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Washington is averaging 13 points and six rebounds while shooting an extremely efficient 47.5% from the field and a much-needed 41.3% from 3-point range. His 29 points against the Thunder in Game 2 of their second-round series ended up being the difference maker in the Mavericks' 119-110 win. He went 7 of 11 from beyond the arc, which is tied for third most 3s made in a playoff game in franchise history. He also became the first player in Mavericks history to record a double-double (29 points, 11 rebounds) while also connecting on seven 3s.

He was unreal, and in the first half, it felt like every time the ball left his hands it was going in.

"I thought P.J. was aggressive," Kidd said after the win. "Being able not to wait for [Kyrie] and Luka, but to bring the ball up and be aggressive and play-make. I thought his playmaking was really, really good [in Game 2]. He got a lot of guys open shots and we're going to need that as the series goes forward."

Washington likely won't have another night where he's shooting like prime Stephen Curry from downtown, but when the Mavericks needed someone to step up he put on the cape. Doncic has been battling a knee sprain and picked up a couple more bumps and bruises in Game 2, Irving finished with just nine points on 2 of 8 from the floor, so had it not been for Washington's flamethrower of a night, the Mavericks lose that game.

And the Thunder will continue to dare Washington to shoot the ball, as their game plan has basically been to blitz Doncic and Irving and force everyone else to beat them. It worked in Game 1, and not so much in Game 2. But the interesting wrinkle here is that one of the reasons Dallas traded for Washington is because he's shown that he can be more than just a spot-up shooter. Throughout the season we've seen the Mavericks set off-ball screens for him to cut to the rim, where he's generating 1.44 points per possession, good for the 77th percentile in the league. Since the trade to Dallas, he's shooting 67.2% inside the restricted area, and 50% inside the paint. He's got a working floater, which has been effective when he gets the ball down low, and he doesn't get frazzled when the defense collapses on him. 

We haven't seen much of that in the postseason yet, but as OKC continues to put pressure on the ball, Washington has the ability to find other ways to score. And it's not just finding other ways for himself to score; he's also getting others involved. In the opening play of the game Thursday night, the Mavericks went to a Washington post up as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was guarding him. He drew two defenders and then dumped it off to Daniel Gafford, who finished at the rim. 

On the very next possession, Washington again drew two defenders after a pick-and-roll with Irving, then kicked it back out to Doncic for the 3-pointer.

Kidd said after the game that going to Washington early was by design.

"We wanted to just look at something different," Kidd said. "We always look at [Kyrie] and Luka, and those guys are going to get their touches and shots. So we looked at something different and it worked. We'll be able to maybe build on that as we go forward with other role players as we play the series."

As the series continues, the Mavericks will need Washington to continue to be efficient. While he may not score 29 points every night, his production is essential for Dallas to advance to the next round.