In-Depth Breakdown of Promising Rookie Killian Hayes

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Killian Hayes
ULM, GERMANY - MARCH 08: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Killian Hayes of Ratiopharm Ulm controls the Ball during the EasyCredit Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) match between Ratiopharm Ulm and MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg at ratiopharm Arena on March 8, 2020 in Ulm, Germany. (Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

With the 7th pick in the 2020 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons selected Killian Hayes. Heading into the draft, I felt if the Pistons stayed put at #7, they would need to address their point guard situation. They did just that by selecting Hayes. If you don’t know much about him right now, you will after reading this article. I’ll break down his game into four categories: physicals, scoring, playmaking, and defense. And In the end, I’ll give my final player comparison for Hayes, as well as my early expectations for his career. 

Before I get into the breakdown I want to do a summary of Killian Hayes basketball career leading up to him being drafted into the NBA. He started his pro career at just age 15 for a French U21 league. In the middle of his second season in that league, he got moved up to the regular French pro league, where he was mostly playing with players a lot older than him. He would stay in that league for another two seasons.

In his second season in this league, in 33 games, he averaged 19.8 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 3.1 APG, and 2.3 RPG while shooting 43.2% from the field, 19.2% from three, and 82% from the free-throw line.

A good reference to those stats would be Frank Ntilikina’s stats when he was a year older and playing in the same French pro league. In 32 games, Ntilikina averaged 18.3 MPG, 5.2 PPG, 1.4 APG, 2.1 RPG while shooting 48.5% from the field, 43.1% from three, and 62.1 from the free-throw line. Now before you think, why are you comparing Killian Hayes to a guy who hasn’t really done anything in the NBA?

You have to remember, Ntilikina was a highly scouted player leading up to the draft and was definitely projected to be better than he is right now. On top of that, you also have to remember Ntilikina was a year older than Hayes in the seasons I was comparing the two. So definitely look at Hayes numbers as a positive sign.

Now back to his euro career. He would play his final season before entering the NBA draft for a German pro team in the Euro League. The Euro League is considered the second most competitive basketball league, after the NBA, of course. In that season, he played 10 games. Hayes averaged 12.8 PPG, 6.2 APG, 2.3 RPG, and 1.5 SPG while shooting 45.5% from the field, 39% from three on 4.1 attempts a game, and 90.9% from the free-throw line. Those are great stats for an 18-year-old to average in the Euro League playing against many former NBA players.

What stands out to me the most is the free-throw percentage. If history has shown us one thing about shooting, it’s that the best 3-point shooters are also usually the best free-throw shooters as well. To prove this, I looked up the top 20 3-point shooters of the past five seasons. Of those 100 players, only 9 shot below 75% from the free-throw line, and the majority of them shot over 80%. Because of that stat, I believe Hayes has tremendous shooting potential, which really helps me like him as a prospect.

Killian Hayes Physicals

Killian Hayes physicals are impressive for a guard. He’s listed at 6″5″, and his weight is really weird, because I’ve looked at 4 different websites, and they all say different things. If you just look at him though I defiantly wouldn’t say he’s scrawny. He has a 6″8″ wingspan, which I think will really help him shoot over defenders, and finish around the rim.

To name a few point guards in the league right now with similar measurements would be D’Angelo Russell, John Wall, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jamal Murray. As far as leaping ability goes, he’s not the best. He defiantly won’t be getting too many posters in the league. Which is fine as long as his shooting is legit.

I wouldn’t say he has tremendous speed with the ball either. So without elite athleticism, Hayes will have to rely more on shooting, and skill to score in the league. Physically, Hayes really reminds me of D’Angelo Russell. They have very similar measurements, and neither are elite athletically.

Killian Hayes Scoring Ability

I’ve already gone over a lot of Hayes point per game averages and his shooting percentages. So now I’d like to talk about how he actually scores and who it reminds me of. To start, he’s a competent scorer around the time. Again, he doesn’t have the elite jumping ability, but he’s very crafty and has good footwork.

He also has great body control, so he can speed up, and slow down to make his defender off-balance. The only real downside to his inside scoring, besides his athleticism, is, he’s not great with both hands, He mainly goes left, which is his dominant hand. All elite finishers in the league are able to use either hand to finish. So that’s defiantly something he will have to improve on going forward.

Killian Hayes is also a very capable shot creator on the perimeter. I would label him as a three-level scorer. In the mid-range area, he loves to use his step back move. Along with that, his good height, and his pure stroke, he has the ability to consistently make tough shots. His ability to spot up is big and just adds another dimension to his scoring. His shot selection isn’t great, but most 19-year-old prospects won’t be. I defiantly don’t see it ever really being a real problem, and it’s far less of a concern compared to other prospects in this draft like Anthony Edwards, and LaMelo Ball.

Hayes scoring is very polished for a 19-year-old. Although I could see him struggling to create his own shot early on his in his rookie season because he’ll need to get adjusted to the speed of the NBA. Once he does I think we could be seeing something special. If I had to choose someone who his scoring reminds me of, I’d have to say D’Angelo Russell again. The way Hayes creates his own shot, and finishes around the rim, screams D-Lo to me.

Hayes Playmaking

Playmaking is defiantly one of Hayes’s strengths. He has good vision, and because of that, he’s able to almost always find the open man on the court. He’s also a good pick and roll ball handler. From what I’ve watched of him, he’s really good at knowing when to hit the roller, pull up and take a jump shot, or catch a help defender sleeping and hit the open shooter.

You can just tell by watching him that he has a great feel for the game. The only real downside of his playmaking that I noticed was, he has a bad habit of sometimes forcing passes. He did average 3.3 turnovers a game in the Euro League. Now, that’s not the most uncommon thing from a young point guard, and I believe in him to be able to fix it, because of that strong feel for the game that I was previously talking about. It’s defiantly something to pay attention to though.

With all that being said, overall I’m high on Hayes playmaking. His passing ability reminds me of players like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Ricky Rubio, and even Chris Paul. I’m that high on Hayes’ playmaking going forward. And keep in mind, all those players I just listed struggled with forcing passes too at one point in their careers. They have just all been able to improve on it.

I also want to talk about Hayes’ ball handling. It’s nothing special, but it’s defiantly not bad. He can get a little too predictable for defenders, which allows them to defend him pretty easily. He needs to add more moves, gets tighter with the ball, and improve his weak hand as I said earlier. I could see him really struggling against elite perimeter defenders early on in his career. For him to take that next step, and be able to deal with those elite defenders, he’ll have to improve this part of his game.

Hayes Defense

Listen, rookies and good defense is a rare mixture. Which is why I’m not going to expect too much out of Hayes defensively this season. You can defiantly say going forward that he has potential to be a good defender, because of size, and feel for the game.

He does struggle laterally though and isn’t the quickest player, and because of those things, I don’t think he’ll ever be an elite defender. I do think he can eventually be a good one though. He did average 1.5 steals a game in the Euro league which is pretty good. I could see him average at least one steal a game in the league.

If Hayes ever becomes a good defender, that would be great. It would add another layer to his game. If he doesn’t, though, I don’t think it would be a disaster. I think he’ll be a good enough scorer and playmaker to be a positive player still. I also want to add that I don’t think he’ll ever be a liability defensively.

Final Predictions:

As I hinted at earlier, I could see Hayes struggling a bit early on in his rookie season. He’ll need to get adjusted to the speed of the NBA. Once he does though I think he could be a pretty good player. I think the Pistons will start him game one unless they decide to start Derrick Rose.

Speaking of Rose, I really hope the Pistons hold onto him this entire season. I think he could be a great mentor for Hayes and someone that could really help Hayes adjust to the NBA. As far as their on-court fit together, I think it would be fine. Rose has shown the past couple of seasons that he can play well with other ball handlers.

I’m not going to predict Hayes to be the rookie of the year, but I predict that he will make an all-rookie team. For my very early career predictions, I’ll say he makes at least two all-star games, and in his prime is an 18 PPG and 8 APG guy. I think the Pistons struck gold with this Hayes at number seven. I won’t be surprised if we’re saying Hayes was the best player out of his class five years from now.

Strengths:

  • Feel for game
  • Size
  • Playmaking
  • Finishing with his strong hand
  • Shot Creating
  • Shooting

Weaknesses:

  • Can be too predictable offensively
  • Finishing with his weak hand
  • Lateral Quickness

Final Comparison:

I’ve been hinting a lot throughout this article, but my final comparison for Killian Hayes is D’Angelo Russell. From the nearly identical size to them both being left-handed, and their similar offensive games, I couldn’t choose D-Lo. D-Lo had a pretty rough start to his career, which I could see happening to Hayes as well.

However, D-Lo was really able to figure it out in his fourth season and make the All-Star team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar career arc for Hayes. Pistons fans need to be patient with Hayes, and I really hope the front office will be too.

Main image credit

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