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WHY KILLIAN HAYES DESERVES MORE NBA DRAFT BUZZ

@TheWillBaldwin

This year’s NBA Draft is full of fascinating prospects and Killian Hayes is no exception.

Hayes is a kid born in the States who grew up in Europe and has distinct flavours of both in his game. When you hear that, you probably assume that would make Hayes a super prospect where everyone loves him but here’s the thing, this is the 2020 draft and no assumptions are allowed.

The great parts about Hayes are undeniable and relatively non-polarizing. He has a craft to him that’ll remind you of international lefty legends Manu Ginobili and Goran Dragic and the American precision of D’Angelo Russell. 

Similarly to those three great players, Hayes struggles athletically and this is where the naysaying begins.

If you ask someone who is all in on him, they’ll say his craft will carry him and use the guys above and others of examples of his impending NBA success story. If you’re less sold, you say his lack of speed and quickness wasn’t a problem in Germany’s top league but what about the world’s? 

To those two extremes, I land much more on the positive side but with an acknowledgement that concerns are at least warranted.

Hayes has an undeniable craft that is eerily reminiscent of many of the great European guards who have provided a window into what it will take for him to succeed. There are also examples of players who have failed that show things he needs to improve on to have success on this side of the pond. 

For starters, Hayes has to find his right hand. Few players are more one-side dominant in this draft than him and in a league like the NBA where you likely are drafting him to be your point guard, that is just something too easy to scout against. As much as I love a guy like RJ Barrett and still believe in his game, his left-hand dominance was a big problem last season and something Hayes needs to learn from.

The other controllable drawback is his poor shooting percentages. Hayes shot under 30 per cent in Germany and will need to get that number much closer to his Eurocup percentage of 39. Otherwise, ghosts of Ricky Rubio past could undoubtedly get in his way. 

If you can’t tell, my biggest concerns of Hayes aren’t actually his athleticism but rather his single hand dominance and shooting. I’m a strong believer that you don’t have to be a great athlete to work in this league but you do have to make up for your shortfalls skills wise. 

On the extreme end, no one is comparing James Harden and Luka Doncic to Giannis athletically and yet they find a way to produce on similar levels through Herculean levels of skill.

I’m not comparing Hayes to Harden or Luka, although some have. For me I see him as a sort of D’Angelo Russell type player that is actually an impressive defender. Hayes is a much better passer than Russell as well but I think the way he’ll score in the league, using pick and rolls, gliding and floating to the paint or into pull-up jumps shots will be extremely similar. 

As impressive as his footwork is for this young of an age and as much as I enjoy watching him score, those two things are not even close to my two favourite things about the French guard. 

Hayes is right up at the top of this draft as both a passer and defender. His vision, particularly on the pick and roll and fastbreak shows the potential to be special. He regularly catches defenders cheating cross court with gorgeous skip passes while also having the pocket pass to a roller down to perfection. There’s no doubt in my mind that any of the Detroit, Chicago and New York’s of the world would do well coming out of this draft with him.

Another reason to have optimism in him is the way this dude defends. 

Hayes was part of a new program at his club at Ulm where the German side is hoping to bring in European prospects and hope to be a major building ground for elite talent. With Hayes as the original, the goal was to showcase him by allowing him to play an incredible amount and thus make mistakes few guys in this draft were allowed. 

Even still as the kid who the team was built around his development, he didn’t let that go to his ego. Hayes instead shared the ball on offence and on defence competed with the best of them, even showing a knack for great smarts at that end. 

He may not be the greatest athlete but his smarts coupled with his clear competitiveness on the defensive end show me this will be a player committed to improving. 

I’m a big Hayes fan and believe in the right spot, this player could quite possibly join the names like Ginobili and Dragic as European guard success stories. Hayes return to the USA will be fun and full of fascination. 

Scouting Report:

Stats:

SeasonTeamLeague GMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%2P2PA2P%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2017-18CholetLNB Pro Afr99.10.91.6.5710.20.3.6670.71.2.5450.20.3.6670.20.30.61.20.00.10.90.92.2
2018-19CholetLNB Pro Afr3319.82.86.5.4320.42.2.1922.44.2.5571.21.5.8200.32.02.33.11.00.21.72.47.2
2019-20ratiopharm UlmEuroCupeu1026.84.610.1.4551.64.1.3903.06.0.5002.02.2.9090.12.22.36.21.50.23.33.212.8

Projection:

  • Crafty guard on the fringe of regular all-star appearances in the ilk of Goran Dragic and Mike Conley (Best-Case)
  • Contributing role-player who’s ability to defend and play off the ball allow him to stick for a long time in the NBA (Worst-Case)

Player Comp:

  • Goran Dragic- Crafty European lefty who remains prennially underrated despite his talent
  • D’Angelo Russell- Despite his athleticism shortcomings, uses his smarts, skill and footwork to consistently produce buckets
  • Mike Conley- Competitive floor general who fighs on both ends and has good vision

Strengths

  • Crafty, intelligent player who knows his strengths and weaknesses and excels in pick and roll already
  • Impressive vision, particularly in open-floor and pick and roll
  • Really impressive guard defender for such a young player
  • Footwork is outstanding already
  • Percentage should come with his solid shooting technique as he gets more reps

Weaknesses

  • Very average athlete who leaves much to be desire, particularly in explosiveness and overall speed to get by people
  • Needs to get stronger, has tendency to go up weak at the rim
  • Absurdly left-hand dominant, an absolute must fix ASAP
  • Relies quite a bit on difficult shots, would like to see him find a way to generate easier looks
  • Needs to hit jumpshot more consistently, especially off dribble to open up the rest of his game 

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