It’s funny how quickly a player’s NBA Draft stock can change during the season.
During the 2019-20 campaign, I kept reference of a certain ESPN article which was written in December by Mike Schmitz — and filed it away for reference once it came time to write these reports. In it, Schmitz talks about a number of international prospects (a lot of whom we’ve already gone into here at Peachtree Hoops).
Two of those players that Schmitz coupled in under the one heading were Theo Maledon and Killian Hayes, with Schmitz making comparisons between the two in the ‘battle to be the top PG in Europe’ heading into the draft.
A lot has happened on and off the court since then but Hayes is now very much seen as the superior prospect compared to Maledon, with Hayes often appearing inside the top-10 of mock drafts and Maledon on the fringes of the lottery, if not closer towards the 20’s (and in the 20’s now from some outlets).
I was a big fan of Theo Maledon’s game and I was hugely impressed by the poise the young Frenchman showed, especially in the EuroLeague (and is placed far too low in mock drafts for my liking, personally). So, why does Killian Hayes rank so much higher now? What sets him apart from Maledon, if anything?
Well, we’re not going to waste any more time in finding that out, finding what Killian Hayes’ game is about — let’s dig in.
Hayes has been on the international scene professionally for a couple of seasons now, plying his trade with Cholet — where his father played during his career — before moving to Germany to play the 2019-20 season with Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany’s top division.
Across the season, in a total of 33 games in all competitions, Hayes averaged 11.5 points per game on 48% shooting from the field on 8.6 field goal attempts, 29% from three on three attempts per game, 87% from the free throw line on 2.7 attempts per game, 2.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 3.2 turnovers and 2.9 personal fouls per game in an average of 24.8 minutes per game, per Real GM.
The numbers won’t blow you away — though, the field goal efficiency despite shooting 29% on threes is very impressive — but let’s go through Hayes’ game and go from there.
For reference, Hayes wears the No. 3 on the court.
For a change of pace, we’ll start with Hayes’ passing/playmaking, because it’s arguably his strongest quality on the court. Hayes averaged over five assists a game and, simply put, made his teammates better when he was on the floor.
Pick-and-roll seems to be a good place to start, it’s where Hayes spent quite a bit of time and it’s probably where he’s best at and the place most likely to translate in the NBA — facilitating off of pick-and-rolls/screens.
Something simple to start, as Hayes and his teammate link up on a screen-and-fade, with Hayes whipping the pass back to the screener just before Hayes reaches the free throw line for the assist on the three-pointer:
Hayes receives the screen on this play and the roller heads towards the rim. As Hayes probes forward, the defense is there to meet him and leaving the roller open for Hayes to connect with on the alley-oop:
Hayes’ awareness of where his teammates are is one of his great strengths and you’re going to see it often as we go through various clips. So, look out for it — his IQ is high.
On this possession, Hayes receives the ball and turns the corner coming off of the screen before kicking the ball back to another teammate, who is open after Hayes draws the defense on the drive, and gets a great look at an open three-point attempt:
Hayes displays a solid handle and command of the ball as he showcases some of his shiftiness, eventually coming off of the pick-and-roll before dropping a pass after one of the backline defenders steps up to meet Hayes, leading to an assist at the rim:
After the screen and roll, Hayes lofts a lovely pass into the path of his teammate, whose shot is ruled as a goal-tend:
Again, Hayes comes off of the screen, draws the defense while the roller strolls by his defender — who switched off — and Hayes finds him for the assist at the rim:
On the pick-and-roll here, Hayes throws a beautiful pass to his teammate at the rim, who tries to do too much at once and squanders what would have been a beautiful assist for Hayes:
Hayes receives the screen and makes his move inside. While the defense backtracks (but in a decent position to contest any shot Hayes may attempt), a cut is made behind the defense and Hayes drops a bounce-pass to find his teammate, only for him to criminally miss at point-blank range:
After a hand-off before receiving the ball again, Hayes receives the screen, proceeds forward into bodies before demonstrating his awareness of his surroundings by kicking the ball back to Zoran Dragic for a good look on a three-pointer:
At the end of the third quarter, Hayes operates the pick-and-roll and fires a powerful pass inside over the defense — which had pressurized him after the screen — but his teammate is unable to finish at the buzzer:
Driving to his left coming off of the screen, Hayes draws three, almost four, defenders and, again, displays his awareness of surroundings as he rifles a pass to the weak-side corner for the three-point attempt:
Hayes can create for his teammate off of the dribble too, not just requiring the pick-and-roll to create.
We’ll start off with this play, where Hayes shows a fluid handle/command for the ball as he leads the defender on his weaker right side before a quick change of direction of the ball between his legs before he drives to his left, driving past his defender and then showing the presence of mind to kick the ball back behind the three-point line for the assist on the three-pointer:
This time, Hayes’ change of direction at the start of his move wrong-foots the defender and he drives by. The backline of the opposing defense prevents further progress but the cut is made from the win and Hayes delivers a handy bounce-pass to said cutter for the assist on the layup at the rim:
At mid-court, Hayes turns on the jets, gets by his defender and connects with his teammate for the alley-oop:
We’ll talk about this in more detail later but I’m a little less sure about this aspect (Hayes’ ability to create off of the dribble) translating in the NBA... We’ll move on.
Hayes can also excel as a playmaker in transition (he’s just very good on the move).
A simple play to start...after the turnover, Hayes receives the ball and makes the easy pass to his teammate for the assist on the three-pointer in transition:
Easing into this, after the miss, Hayes receives the ball and finds Zoran Dragic for the assist in transition:
This time, Hayes picks up the loose ball after the deflection and is quick to spring the pass to his teammate for the assist on the three-pointer:
Off of the miss, Hayes receives the ball and is off to the races, gets to the free throw line before diverting the ball to the wing to his teammate for the three-point attempt:
After getting his hands on the steal, Hayes turbos in transition, weaves through beautifully before impressively finding his teammate at the rim, who criminally misses the layup (which Hayes cannot believe):
Hayes can see quite a little bit of extra pressure and he’s adept at working out of these situations and being able to find a way out, creating out of it at times too.
On the pick-and-roll hedge, Hayes threads a nice two-handed pass to the roller, who gets up a shot attempt which is missed:
From the out of bounds play, Hayes inbounds from the opposing baseline and heads out front to recollect the ball. On the pick-and-roll, it’s a bit of a tight squeeze but he somehow zips a pass inside to the roller, whose attempt at the rim is thwarted:
Again, the pick is hedged, the roller gets to the paint and draws the wing defender and Hayes swiftly delivers the ball to the wing for the assist on the three-pointer:
A little closer to mid-court, the opposing defense attempts to trap Hayes, who manages to angle his body and deliver a nice left-handed pass inside, leading to a foul on a corner three attempt after the next pass:
Hayes’ touch, awareness and his overall basketball IQ are very high, and we’re going to see that in some more general point of view rather than a focused view (i.e. transition, pick-and-roll etc.). He’s just an unselfish player.
Nothing too big to start here, just a nice extra pass to find a better look on the three-pointer for his teammate:
Again, nice little extra pass to the open man in the corner for the assist on the three:
Here’s something a little more fancy, as Hayes — after a quick burst on the drive left — loops a beautiful, looping pass to the weak-side corner for the assist on the three-pointer;
That’s just a beautiful dime: the awareness, the execution... So good.
Coming out of the timeout on this possession, this was a nicely drawn up play and a nice left-handed pass by Hayes to his teammate on the perimeter, who for some reason elected not to attempt a shot inside off of the drive from the Hayes pass and the possession goes to waste:
Hayes’ awareness, IQ and passing ability won’t be things limited to those clips I’ve just showed: you will/should have a sense by now of Hayes’ abilities and there’s a reason I started in this area — he’s a very good and willing passer.
There are a few issues, however, and no sense showing all of these dimes/chances created without showing a few turnovers too (which Hayes can commit quite a few of).
On the pick-and-roll, Hayes’ attempted pass inside is deflected and the end result is the turnover:
This next play didn’t result in a turnover but it really should have, as Hayes drives into the paint and his attempted pass is deflected (and should have been secured) but fortunately for Hayes’ boxscore, it winds up in the hands of a teammate in the corner who tracks it down:
On the pick-and-roll, Hayes’ bounce-pass hits off of the leg the roller, resulting in a turnover:
On this possession, Hayes sees an extra body and his attempted pass out of this pressure is deflected, resulting in a turnover and then the basket at the other end:
We’ve looked at how Hayes operates in transition and he does enjoy his long, leading passes too but unfortunately in this case, the pass is a little too long and the turnover is committed:
Nothing to read into too much on this next turnover — just to show Hayes makes mistakes such as this misjudgment on where his teammate was and the deliverance of the pass to Row Z:
I think you now have a general idea when it comes to Killian Hayes as a playmaker and a passer, but we’ll summarize more at the end.
Let’s move on, and we’ll move onto Hayes’ offense/scoring. Hayes averaged over 11 points per game and was particularly efficient from inside the arc. It’s probably easier to start with what Hayes can do off of screens/pick-and-roll as, again, I think it’s his strongest aspect of play offensively and one that I think will be more likely to translate more quickly.
Coming off of screens/pick-and-roll, Hayes can score in a number of different ways.
After the offensive rebound, Hayes receives the ball, uses the down screen, gets into the paint before stepping back and hitting the jumpshot:
Off of the miss, Hayes grabs the rebound and heads up the court. He operates behind the screen, the defense stays under the screen and gives Hayes permission to launch from three and Hayes connects:
Again, Hayes uses the screen at the top of the three-point line before ducking back with a step-back and connects from outside once again:
Some work inside the perimeter this time as Hayes uses the screen to zig inside before hitting the contested jump shot:
On the pick-and-roll switch this time, Hayes looks to use his pace to his advantage as he lulls the defender before his drive before hitting a tough, hanging shot near the baseline:
On this possession, Hayes receives the screen going to his left before going back to his right and drives into the space with a burst of pace before extending to finish with his left-hand at the rim:
This time coming off of the screen, the defense does not step up to meet Hayes, allowing the Frenchman to stick through the floater:
For another three-pointer, separation is created by the screen and Hayes doesn’t need the invitation to let it fly, connecting from outside:
You can kind of get the gist of some of Hayes’ offense coming off of screens/in pick-and-roll. Let’s look at some of his more unassisted runs to the rim, i.e., drives and penetration, as well as transition.
We’ve looked at an aspect of this already in terms of Hayes finding teammates for opportunities but now we’ll look at Hayes’ looking to score himself (which doesn’t happen as often as Hayes looking for his teammates).
Something simple to start as Hayes receives the ball in transition, passes to his teammate in the corner before receiving the ball back and the space is there for Hayes to drive into and he sticks through the floater:
Here, Hayes has his defender leaning as he dances out front before delivering the killer-cross to create the space to drive inside and hits the floater:
Again, Hayes whips out another deadly cross before getting inside and drawing the foul on the shot attempt at the rim:
On the drive this time, Hayes powers through from the three-point line and scores at the rim, plus the foul:
On this play, Hayes goes behind his back to change direction and drives inside to finish at the rim, plus the foul:
Out front, Hayes blows by the defender and gets all of the way to the rim for the finish:
I think you can get a sense of how Hayes can collect some buckets under his own steam — he can definitely do it but I do worry that the help defense will obviously be much better at the NBA level. You may have noticed it also, but Hayes doesn’t really use his right hand a ton. It’s going to be a problem if Hayes can’t help shield his shot somewhat on drives going right if every layup is a left-handed finish.
Let’s move on.
We’ve looked at a few instances of Hayes shooting some three-pointers but we’ll talk about it briefly and look at it as its own thing, rather than as a part of another aspect of Hayes’ games (i.e. off of the dribble).
It’s not an efficient shot for Hayes right now (29%) but it’s a shot he can hit in a few different scenarios.
On this possession, Hayes hits the three-pointer off of the dribble after rejecting the screen:
Coming out of bounds, Hayes uses the screen and the space to let it fly is afforded to him when the defense goes under the screen, and Hayes hits the three:
We’ve looked at this three-pointer already, but Hayes connects from the outside after the step-back following the screen:
There’s not a ton of point lingering here for very long when it comes to Hayes’ three-point shooting...it’s not where it needs to be but there is some potential there, and it will need work — it’ll be hugely important to unlocking Hayes’ offense.
For more on Killian Hayes, including a detailed look at his defensive profile and much more, check out Part Two.