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2020 NBA Draft scouting report: Killian Hayes (Part 2)

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Ratiopharm Ulm v MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg - EasyCredit Basketball Bundesliga Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

If you missed anything from Part 1 of our Killian Hayes scouting report, please click here.


Let’s move onto Hayes’ defense — it can be a bit of a mixed bag but we’ll start with the some of the good/better stuff first.

Hayes is capable of keeping his man in front of him — we’ll look at a few examples of this.

Here, a simple play to start as Hayes is able to contain from the wing and doesn’t allow the penetration into the paint and the ball-handler is eventually forced to pass after a pick-and-roll in an attempt to create some offense on this possession:

Around mid-court, Hayes extends good pressure and does well to stick with the play and get through the multiple occasions after screens are sent his way:

Again, Hayes prevents the movement inside on the drive and forces a pass before Ulm come up with the steal:

Once again, Hayes displays good one-on-one defense and is able to prevent any drive inside and the pass is forced once it becomes clear there’s no way through Hayes on this possession:

Hayes shows a disruptive side on this possession, exerting good pressure on the ball-handler before knocking the ball loose, sticking with the play and helping force the double-dribble and the turnover:

Deep in the fourth quarter, with the game tied, Hayes produces a great defensive play as he sticks with the ball-handler, getting through the screen before contesting the shot in the paint, resulting in a missed shot:

Hayes is also capable of getting his hands in/flash his defensive instincts for steals (1.4 per game) and is capable of producing an occasional block too.

Hayes catches the ball-handler by surprise heading down the court, pokes the ball away and finds himself on the floor to complete the steal as he hands off to a teammate at mid-court:

A multiple effort possession coming up as Hayes initially contains on the wing before the ball is passed away. When it is returned to the wing, Hayes sticks with the drive and blocks the shot at the rim:

In transition, Hayes is the last man between the attacker and the rim but gets a hand in to knock away the ball, creating the steal and the opportunity for his teammate to score on the other end:

On this late-game defensive possession, Hayes is initially separated by the screen but the help defense is suffice enough to allow Hayes to get back into the defensive possession and in front of the ball-handler. On the subsequent drive, Hayes not only sticks with the drive but produces a clutch block out of bounds:

Some defense to offense on this possession for Hayes as he picks up at mid-court before poking the ball free with his right hand and finishing with an easy dunk at the other end...points out of nothing:

Hayes has to work a little more on this play, not on the steal but on heading the other way but Hayes does indeed successfully navigate the defense with relative ease for the bucket:

All of this looks great but it’s more to show that Hayes can perform well defensively. In reality, Hayes is a mixed bag and an inconsistent defender at times.

To end the first quarter, Hayes is blown by easily at mid-court, leading to a basket at the rim:

Again, Hayes is blown by and is unable to recover, leading to the dunk at the rim:

On this play, again, a quick dribble and drive and Hayes is completely undone and is lucky the opposition doesn’t score on the possession after being beaten by his matchup:

In transition — whether this was Hayes’ man or not — Hayes is out-hustled and unalert to the threat, allowing the man off of the ball to overtake him and it leads to an easy basket in transition and, perhaps unsurprisingly, to an immediate timeout:

Another mental lapse (to a certain degree) from Hayes as he loses track of his man, allowing the pass inside and Hayes isn’t able to recover to prevent the jumpshot being made:

Hayes isn’t directly responsible for this defensive possession but should maybe demonstrate some more awareness and perhaps rotate onto the cutter, resulting in an easy basket:

Hayes also commits too many fouls — committing just under three fouls a game (with a five foul limit per game). These come in various fashions, as you would imagine.

Very simple, Hayes commits the foul at the start the drive:

A little further on the drive this time, Hayes sticks the hand in and commits the foul on the drive:

Again on the drive, Hayes is beaten and commits the foul on the contest but to no avail, the bucket still counts:

After creating a good shot for his teammate, Zoran Dragic, Hayes commits a pointless foul on a rebound he was never going to get:

From one transition opportunity to another, as Hayes creates one opportunity to create a three-point look. Off of the miss, the opposition comes the other way and Hayes commits a poor foul in transition when there are three other teammates behind the ball:

After turning the ball over, Hayes is defending in transition and commits a silly foul after falling for the bait:

Hayes can be frustrating to watch defensively. He’s absolutely capable but inconsistent.

Let’s try land this thing, and we go over everything (including defense).

I believe his passing and creation is the best aspect of his game. His ability to make the pass he sees is strong and he’s a clever player. The pick-and-roll creation is strong, and in the NBA you can rely on pick-and-roll being present. What you can’t rely on as much in the NBA as is the creation off of the dribble — not to say that it won’t happen but it shouldn’t be expected to happen as much/as consistently in the NBA.

A good question to ask when it comes to point guards like Hayes is ‘does he make his teammates better?’ and you’d have to, and comfortably too, say that Hayes does make his teammates better. He’s a selfless player and I thought it was most telling that on those penetrations/drives, Hayes looked to find a teammate more so than score himself.

But the things that bother me when it comes to Hayes’ playmaking are his turnovers and his lack of willingness (maybe even ability) to use his right-hand — that’s a big issue.

Offensively when it comes to scoring, Hayes is obviously equipped adequately to take defenders off of the dribble. What impressed me was how fluid Hayes appeared to be, when the ball was in his hands, it looked easy.

Hayes was also very efficient scoring inside the arc and that can’t be ignored — the array of runners and floaters are a strong aspect of Hayes’ game and he should find opportunity to whip these out in pick-and-roll situations. I’m not as confident on the pull-up jumpers out of pick-and-rolls but I think as long as they’re inside the arc, I think Hayes can hit those at the NBA level. The pick-and-roll offense is arguably going to be Hayes’ best offensive aspect out of the gate.

There’s a number of reasons to be concerned about Hayes’ scoring, however.

I’m concerned about Hayes’ ability to break down an NBA defense out front, off of the dribble. It goes without saying that NBA defenders are longer and more athletic...can Hayes still be effective when it comes to getting by? If Hayes struggles in this regard, that limits his scoring options and his opportunities to create for others.

It also feeds into another area of concern: three-point shooting.

If Hayes is unable to drive by opponents, it won’t invite them to sit back in case of said drive, opening up decently open three-point looks, potentially. Now, the opposition may choose to sit back on Hayes regardless if he continues to shoot under 30% from three, so it’s on Hayes to improve this aspect of his game more than worry about whether or not he can drive by opponents in the NBA — the three-point shooting is obviously so key to unlocking the rest of Hayes’ offense and key to his viability in the NBA offensively.

In addition, Hayes barely uses his weaker right-hand and that’s also a concern. Force him right...and what is there?

Defensively, it’s frustrating watching Hayes at times because he has the tools he needs to be a good defender — good size, good length, good foot-speed — but he’s just not consistent enough.

Though he’s quick, he does struggle with defending quick guards. He’s probably lacking some strength at this stage too compared to NBA players but that’s to be expected. He can also make great defensive highlight plays, his size and length allowing him to produce both blocks and steals. I think the potential to switch defensively is there but it didn’t seem like one that Ulm tapped into a ton with Hayes — he has the size to do so.

The fouling, however, has to be cut down. If Hayes truly applies himself, I think he could be a solid defender. Well...average at least — let’s not get too far ahead right now.

In terms of a fit in the NBA... I mean, there’s probably a chance he could start for a few of the lottery teams but I think the much more likely scenario (and, in the grand scheme of your franchise, ideal scenario) is that Hayes is coming off of the bench and serving as a backup point guard.

I would imagine he will be deployed at both the one and the two but his style of play would probably suit the one more (at least, playing on-ball rather than off-ball) — it’d arguably be a waste of Hayes’ talents in his rookie season to deploy him primarily off of the ball given his ability to create.

If Hayes can start making some outside shots, that makes him infinitely easier to deploy at the two as well and then maybe you can look at him as a secondary playmaker at the starting two-guard with the ability to create some offense himself.

Hayes is widely mocked in the top-10, with ESPN listing Hayes at No. 9 overall on their ‘Best Available’ list, with Mike Schmitz adding the following to say about Hayes’ strengths:

Great size for a lead guard at 6-5.

Strong frame. Has the tools to defend either guard spot when fully motivated. Can change speeds and directions with the ball. Fairly fluid athlete who can use his size to overpower smaller guards.

Comfortable pick-and-roll player with three-level scoring potential and creativity as a passer when he’s able to get to his left hand. Has also improved as a shooter. Can rise into midrange pull-ups or even bounce out to 3 with step-backs. Shows glimpses of finesse as a finisher with his left hand in the paint.

Fairly experienced and productive for his age having played 72 pro games (BBL, France Pro A, EuroCup). Should be able to have an instant impact if he’s in a situation where the ball is in his hands.

The key point I would be looking at here is ‘when he’s able to get to his left-hand’ — if his left is taken away...I would be concerned.

As for Schmitz’s input on Hayes’ ‘improvement areas’:

Average athletically both in terms of burst and vertical explosion. Struggles with aggressive ball pressure. Turned the ball over on 25% of his possessions. Can change speeds and directions but doesn’t quite have the shiftiness to beat rangy defenders off the dribble consistently. Will have to become a more consistent shooter to combat that. Doesn’t get to the free throw line at a high rate.

Extremely left-hand dominant as a driver, passer and finisher. Lack of willingness to use his right hand limits him all over the floor.

Defensive intensity comes and goes. Struggles with speedy guards. While improved, his approach to the game was a question in the past. How much of his success is a product of the freedom and volume he was given with Ulm? Has looked ordinary at times in camp settings when surrounded by strong athletes.

I’d personally rate Hayes’ burst a tad higher than ‘average’ but fully agree with the assessment that Hayes isn’t an ‘explosive’ athlete. The turnovers are a very valid point and the lack of shooting to make up for the fact he may struggle to beat higher quality defenders is something we touched upon.

‘How much of his success is a product of the freedom and volume he was given with Ulm? Has looked ordinary at times in camp settings when surrounded by strong athletes.’ — woof, that’s a cutting question and comment.

I talked about Theo Maledon at the beginning of this report (seems like an eternity ago, I know) and that’s the kind of question and comment that would make me want to swing back to Maledon. With Ulm, Hayes was allowed many liberties and, to be fair, Hayes performed well. But there’s a large degree of the unknown, if you take Schmitz’s comments into consideration. With Maledon, you got a legitimate sense of what he could do against high level competition in that a backup role — it was steady, it was reliable and, I think, easily translatable.

With Hayes I’m really not as confident as to how some of his skills would translate to the NBA. I worry that the potential lack of shooting and his potential struggles getting by the opposition on his own steam may really hinder Hayes offensively. In the pick-and-roll, I think he’ll fare much better.

I really think he and Maledon are on a similar level. I’d give Hayes a slight advantage because I believe his passing/vision/IQ is at a higher level but I really think the gap between the two is not as large as the mock drafts would make it appear (with Maledon featuring in the 20’s) but that has more to do with people I think underrating Maledon than overrating Hayes — I think he’s appropriately rated.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic mocks Hayes at No. 8 to the New York Knicks, adding this when it comes to the Frenchman:

The Knicks need more talent, pure and simple. The lead guard spot is a definite need, and Hayes fits well. He’s all over the board for evaluators across the league. Some really love his feet and passing ability and think he’s going to turn into a real starting option at the lead guard spot and someone who affects winning. Those evaluators also tend to buy into his pull-up jumper being translatable to more situations than it’s shown so far in his career, as he’s really struggled to hit 3-point shots. Others have him near the end of or outside of the lottery. Those evaluators worry about his explosiveness and his athleticism, in addition to the shot. For the Knicks, this is not another Frank Ntilikina from France. Hayes is much more polished on offense as a decision-maker and scorer. His craft is far more polished. I don’t know that he’s necessarily a star, but he might help the Knicks transition from terrible to average due to his basketball IQ.Having said that, it’s exceptionally hard to know what the Knicks are planning with this pick due to the new front office, and due to all of their team-building options in free agency.

Vecenie lays it out pretty nicely when it comes to the concerns of Hayes.

I do believe, as Vecenie references, that Hayes’ feet are better than others give him credit for, and I believe in the passing too.

I think no matter what role you’re with on a team, if you have the capabilities to spot the pass and make the pass...I think that’s something that doesn’t matter if you play 17 or 27 minutes a game. If you can pass, you can pass, and I think it is something that translates.

I’m not sold on the jump shot translating immediately, other than ones that can be freed up with screens and Hayes getting inside the three-point line — he showed reliability on those, reliability inside the arc. Outside? I’m not as confident.

Let’s have a look at one more outlet, here’s what Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo had to say about Hayes after he mocked the Frenchman 10th overall to the Phoenix Suns:

After an undefeated run in the bubble, there’s real optimism surrounding the Suns’ young core and the development of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. Phoenix’s roster is heavy on point guards but still devoid of a true long-term answer at the position (Ricky Rubio was a positive addition, but turns 30 later this year). Hayes has starting-caliber upside as a lead playmaker and would be a strong fit in Phoenix, where he can ease into rotation minutes. Some teams are still concerned long-term about his shooting and athleticism limiting his upside, and his range starts in the back half of the lottery. But his proclivity for using screens and attacking defenses situationally off the ball makes a lot of sense here.

I think there can be ‘starting-caliber upside’ for Hayes but I’m not sure it’ll be as a starting point guard. Hayes could be a very strong secondary creator from the shooting guard spot (and his size means he could be deployed as such) but as the start/end of an NBA team’s offense? I don’t feel comfortable to say that.

But, hey, always happy to be proved wrong.

I think Hayes deserves top-10 consideration in this draft at the very least. Whether he makes sense for the Hawks at No. 6, it’s hard to say.

The backup point guard spot is one the Hawks need to improve on and Hayes would be a player who could be a good addition in that spot — I think that’s the role Hayes would be best suited for off of the bat, maybe even long term (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

But that leans towards the long-term. In the same vein, the Hawks need to start collecting some wins and with the backup point guard spot being one so vital, do the Hawks want to spend that on a player who would have to go through the rollercoaster of a rookie season at that position when they need to win games? Or would they be better off going with an experienced veteran in free agency? Is it possible to do a little bit of both and would that even work?

I can’t help but wonder if the Hawks will look elsewhere.

Many have mixed feelings about Killian Hayes — will he end up in the latter half of the lottery or will he rise toward the top-five?

We shall see...