Introduction to Killian Hayes:
Killian Hayes is a special NBA prospect. He possesses both an advanced skill set and unteachable abilities. In today’s NBA, Hayes can be an ideal point guard or shooting guard for most teams. His playing style is built around his incredible court vision, shot creating ability and high shooting percentages. He even appears to possess the ideal size for either of these positions.
While Hayes is not an unknown in the draft, he is not spoken about nearly as much as Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball. I believe this is intentional from the NBA front offices. Teams don’t want to hype Hayes up as they know he could very easily be the best player in the draft.
Hayes is coming off a great season where he displayed his ability to score and pass at a high level. Hayes was able to average nearly 13 points and 6 assists a game in the Eurocup. While the team he played for only won 1 out of 10 games, Hayes was still able to display his skills at a high level. Hayes’ situation was similar to LaMelo Ball’s in the sense that he played big minutes on a weak team. What Hayes was able to show was his advanced footwork, pure shooting form and ability to create for others. These skills are all translatable to the NBA level.
Questions about Hayes’ games are based around his athleticism, ability to win, his turnovers and defense. These big questions are largely why we don’t see him ranked above the other top 3 players in the draft.
From the footage I have watched, I believe that Hayes has good NBA level athleticism. While not elite, his athleticism is somewhere in between Jamal Murray and Luka Doncic. This may lead to Hayes becoming more of a playmaking shooting guard as opposed to a true point guard. But in the modern day NBA where role is emphasised over position, Hayes’ playmaking should allow him to excel on the NBA court whichever guard position his team chooses to play him at.
Defensively I also question Hayes’ ability to defend elite athlete point guards, which yet again makes me view him as a shooting guard on the defensive end of the floor. Playing Hayes next to an athletic defensive guard could allow him to thrive. For Chicago this could be Kris Dunn, or for Cleveland this could be Colin Sexton.
According to NBA.com Killian Hayes is 6 foot 5 with a 6 foot 8 wingspan. If these measurements are accurate this would mean that Hayes has exceptional size for the NBA. With these measurements Hayes could play either the point guard or the shooting guard at ease. Hayes’ height is sometimes listed as 6’4 or 6’6, either way he would still have the size for either guard spot.
Hayes’ wingspan will allow him to defend the passing lanes. Most of Haye’s steals are interceptions which is an indicator of this. Hayes’ wingspan should lead to him being a capable defender at the next level. If Hayes is unable to defend the point, his wingspan will allow him to guard the wings and switch on to larger players.
At 192 pounds Hayes appears to have good size and strength for a guard. If Hayes wants to become a shooting guard, adding a little more weight will be necessary. Ideally Hayes should get up to around 200. This should allow for him to not lose much speed and gain some strength at the same time.
Killian Hayes averaged 12.8 points per game and 6.2 assists per game. These are very solid numbers for a point guard playing in the Eurocup. What makes these numbers even more impressive are his shooting percentages.
Hayes made 45.5% of his field goals, 50% of his 2 pointers, 39% of 3 pointers and 90.9% of his free throws. While these percentages were only averaged over a 10 game sample, they are still very impressive.
Shooting potential is often based off of a player’s shooting form and free throw percentage. Hayes’ shooting form is unique, but not necessarily bad. His release is straight, he uses his legs well and consistently squares his feet up to the basket. His release is also very quick. Hayes shot 39% from deep this year, which is very good for a young player. However he only averaged 19.2% from deep last season. What makes me believe this year’s percentage is more indicative of his shooting ability is his free throw shooting. Last year Hayes shot 82% from the free throw line, and this year he shot 90.9% from the free throw percentage. He did this while averaging more free throw attempts per game. These indications show that Hayes has the potential to be an incredible shooter.
Hayes’ passing statistics both show how good of a playmaker he is, but also show his largest red flag. This red flag is how often he turns the ball over. Hayes’ averages a high number of assists with 6.2 per game. Hayes averaged 3.3 turnovers per game this season. This makes his assist to turnover ratio only 1.88. This is a solid assist to turnover ratio, however for Hayes to become the elite playmaker he has the potential to become, he is going to need to cut his turnovers down.
There are three players I would compare Hayes to: D’Angelo Russell, Steve Nash and Elie Okobo.
The reason I compare Hayes to D’Lo is because of his size and court vision. Both are roughly 6’4/6’5. They both also have similar wingspans. While I think D’Lo is more of a natural scorer than Hayes, I believe that Hayes has greater playmaking potential. Hayes also possesses similar footwork to Russell from the footage I have seen. If Hayes is able to become a similar player to Russell, he will be an all star and a worth top 5 pick.
I believe that in a best case scenario Hayes can become a taller Steve Nash. This is a best case scenario of course, where everything goes right for the young player. Nash was an elite passer and great shooter. A quick look at Nash’s stats in his last year in the NCAA shows he averaged 17pts and 6 assists per game in his senior year. He did this while shooting 43% from the field and 34.4% from deep. Nash did shoot an excellent 89.4% from the free throw line. Nash also had a turnover problem as he averaged 3.6 turnovers a game. Nash possesses similar strengths and weaknesses to Hayes around the same age. Steve Nash is one of the greatest point guards of all time, and got there by putting in the work and improving each year. With Hayes’ work ethic we could hopefully see him become a star pass-first point guard like Nash in the future. I also believe that like Nash, Hayes will struggle in his first couple of years in the NBA before breaking out as a star.
Comparing Hayes to Elie Okobo is to show how overseas success does not necessarily translate to the NBA immediately, if at all. Elie Okobo is a point guard for the Phoenix Suns. Okobo averaged better stats in the French league than Hayes did. Unfortunately for Okobo he has done very little in the NBA so far. Part of this is due to the Phoenix Suns player development. In Okobo’s first year in the Suns led to him essentially being thrown to the Wolves on a team with no point guard. With the Suns picking up Rubio this year he was able to play better off the bench. At 22 (just about to turn 23 at time of writing this) years old, I believe that there is still plenty of time for Okobo to become a capable NBA player. However Okobo is evidence that Hayes may not be able to translate to the NBA immediately. While I think Hayes’ game will translate better, we still won’t know until we actually get to see him play in 2021.
NBA Team Fits
With the Wolves already having D’Angelo Russell as their starting point guard, I don’t believe the Wolves would draft Hayes. While I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, whether through the Wolves trading down or Hayes being just that impressive in workouts, the Wolves don’t, there are other players who fit the Wolves better. These players are Ball, Edwards and Okongwu. However we have seen Hayes thrive both on and off the ball. With Minnesota’s president of basketball operations being Gerrson Rosas, I believe the Wolves wouldn’t mind putting a second playmaker next to Russell. Unfortunately for Hayes I think that player will be more of a penetrating playmaker as opposed to a perimeter playmaker.
If the Warriors decide to draft Hayes it will most likely be because a team trading for the pick wants him. Hayes does fit Golden State’s style of play, so while I don’t think it is likely they draft him, I certainly would not rule it out.
While the Hornets have two decent guards in Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier, the team is not good enough to not draft who they believe is the best player in the draft. Hayes could also thrive as a shooting guard next to a point guard like Rozier. Due to the fact that the Hornets don’t appear to have their center of the future, I think that it is more likely they draft a player such as James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu. The Hornets may even want to draft Anthony Edwards if he slips to the third pick. While I think Hayes would be excellent for the Hornets, I don’t believe they would draft him.
I don’t believe that Hayes is a good fit for the Bulls. He is too similar to Coby White and Zach LaVine in terms of position, and a defense that involves those three players would be abysmal. However I think there is a high possibility that Hayes goes as the fourth overall pick. In a draft that is widely regarded as weak, Hayes would likely be the best player available at fourth. Little is known about the new front office of Chicago’s future plans. Previous management wanted to move on from LaVine which could have led to a line up of Hayes and White running the guard positions. If Hayes is the best player available Chicago should draft him whether they intend on keeping him or trading him.
Again, Hayes is likely to be the best player available here. Cleveland’s roster is very unusual. They have bigs who have clashing playing styles and young guards. If the Cavs view Darius Garland and Colin Sexton as their backcourt of the future they might want to draft someone other than Hayes. However I believe that Hayes could be a good fit next to either guard. Sexton is only 6’1 which leads to him being a short shooting guard or a point guard with no court vision. Hayes could be the point guard on offense allowing for Sexton to focus on scoring, Sexton would then be able to handle the point on defense. This would allow the Cavs to move Garland where he can develop. It’s still unclear on how good Garland can be. Even though the Cavs need a small forward Hayes could be their best fit.
Atlanta’s roster is very versatile allowing for them to draft almost any position. Hayes would be a great fit as their backup point guard for the time being. Over time he could be developed into their starting shooting guard, or take on a sixth man role. Hayes is able to play both on and off the ball which would allow for him to coexist with Trae Young.
The Pistons would be ecstatic if Killian Hayes fell to them on draft night. Apart from maybe Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard and Christian Wood the Pistons roster does not have any future pieces. Hayes would be able to become both their point guard of the future and present. Bruce Brown could defend the point allowing Hayes to focus more on his offense. Unfortunately this is an unrealistic selection as I don’t see Hayes falling this far, despite how good of a fit for the Pistons this would be.
New York Knicks
The Knicks want to draft their future point guard, and if Hayes falls to them they will certainly have it. Unfortunately for the Knicks the likelihood that Hayes falls past the Pistons is extremely unlikely. If the Knicks have the chance to draft Killian Hayes they should draft him without a second thought.
When fans look back on the 2020 NBA Draft, Hayes could easily be the player that they question why he wasn’t drafted higher. He possesses great playmaking, footwork and shooting ability for a player of his age. He has true superstar potential and while there are question marks about his athleticism, this shouldn’t deter teams drafting outside of the top 3 picks.