This week on Bulls.com, Sam Smith will be writing a series of stories featuring 2020 NBA Draft prospects speaking to the media via the NBA's virtual combine. We begin with 19-year-old, 6-foot-5 point guard Killian Hayes from France.
Killian Hayes didn't actually come right out and say he wanted to play for the Bulls. But the French point guard basketball prodigy by way of Florida had as detailed a scouting report on the Bulls as most NBA scouts Monday during a media Zoom conference.
"I spoke to the Bulls a long time ago," Hayes revealed. "It's a really interesting team. It's a young team that has been fighting for a playoff spot, so it could be a real good spot for me. I'm a real big playmaker. I love making the right play and getting my teammates open and trying to make the game easier for them. I feel like I can fit great with a guy like Coby White that can really score the ball. A guy like Zach LaVine. Lauri Markkanen, who can pop out and shoot the three. Also, he's kind of big and athletic and I can throw lobs to him. So, yeah, I can really fit in that group."
It was easily the most expansive answer the articulate and impressive Hayes gave during almost 30 minutes of question-and-answer with media on the opening day of the Draft Combine. Many of the top potential draft picks, like James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards, are not participating in the essentially virtual camp for mostly interviews and measurements.
Still, it was a credit to players like Hayes and highly regarded LaMelo Ball to meet with media and team officials by video. Hayes seemed to be the most sophisticated during the first day of interviews, and one of the most appealing potential draft picks I've listened to in recent years during these sessions.
Looking studious with wire rimmed glasses, Hayes was poised, sincere, honest, expansive and knowledgeable. That he also can play basketball is the big plus, and that he's a 6-5 point guard with full court abilities has to appeal to many teams.
Hayes said his agent has projected him to be drafted between Nos. 2 and 8 or 10 in this draft, though it seems unlikely he could get past Detroit at No. 7. He figures to be a serious contender for the Bulls at No. 4 given his size, improved shooting at just 19, experience in European professional leagues and ability to play off the ball as well. The Ringer web site draft guide which has a credible reputation among mock draft speculators lists him as their top player. With this draft there have been a half dozen players in various mock drafts mentioned at No. 1. Perhaps Hayes gave a big hint about Bulls interest when he said he'd heard from the Bulls months back even as other prospects, like Ball, have said they have not spoken to many teams. The Combine did just begin, but new top executive Arturas Karnisovas was hired by the Bulls in April.
"It's going well," Hayes said about the Combine process. "(Teams are) trying to figure out who I am as a person. I am grateful for every interview, for a team taking interest in me. I never take it for granted. Now I am just trying to focus on my workouts. I'm working on everything, especially my body because everyone knows the NBA has the best athletes in the world.
"I was the main point guard (playing in Germany last season)," Hayes said. "I had to call out every play. So now that's why I am working on coming off screens, being able to catch and shoot, being in the right position, always moving around on the court. I can play the one or the two; it doesn't really matter. I can be effective at both positions. This year I really felt comfortable at the point guard position. Defensively, I can guard all three positions. It's all about coming in and being hungry on the defensive end. I feel I can guard one through three.
"(My) strength obviously is going left and scoring at all three levels even though I can be a lot more consistent from the three," Hayes admitted. "Also my court vision where I can read the game. Stuff I can work on? Defensively, not falling asleep on back door. It's been better during the season, but my turnover rate (can improve) as I was making a lot of turnovers and I feel throughout the season that number went down."
It was a revealing session considering Hayes' transparency about his play, which isn't common among job seekers. In addition, Hayes had a profound knowledge of the NBA, mentioning how he studies the left handers like Manu Ginobili, James Harden and Goran Dragic (Hayes is strong left hand dominant), the way they play pick and roll and read the floor and the pace of someone like Steve Nash.
"When I look at a guy like Goran, especially in these playoffs, his pick and roll," Hayes said of his primer. "James Harden, the way he can create space and a great passer. Manu Ginobili, his footwork and the way he sees the game. You are trying to pick and choose aspects to how they have played." Hayes also said he was drawn to the play of Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose watching the game while growing up.
Which perhaps is no surprise considering an upbringing not unlike that of Kobe Bryant's Hayes was born in Florida. His father was a player in the old ABA and eventually went to play in France and around Europe. Hayes began playing professionally in France in his teens. In 2017, he was co-MVP in the Jordan Brand Classic. In the next season, he was league MVP playing for his father's former team in France, Cholet Basket. He played in Germany last year where he said he was able to expand his game and averaged about 13 points and six assists before declaring for the draft after the Covid shutdown.
Hayes is not a high flying athlete, but deft in pick and roll play, good in transition and an excellent passer with an ability to get into the lane and score. His shot looks a bit like a push, but is effective. He knows where the ball needs to go.
"I feel a team that has a great scorer, they are trying to make the game easier for him, a scorer like Devin Booker," Hayes said when asked about the Suns. "I'd say physically (is important in the NBA). You have guys like Pat Beverley, guys who are real strong point guards so you have to be ready physically (Hayes is 6-5 and almost 220). You have to come in ready. You probably won't have a summer league. We won't have the time to adjust right into it. So come in as ready as possible.
"I love playing with shooters, finding wide open shots and creating for them," Hayes said. "It really opens up the game. I can play with a lot of players. I love having that big man who can catch the lob. I feel a lot of players fit in those categories. Coming in I can have an impact right away with my experience. I know the game and I can adjust to any set."
Hayes was asked about playing in a cold weather city
"I played in Germany," he said. "It was pretty cold; weather doesn't really matter."
Whether to take a strong look at Killian Hayes with the No. 4 pick might really matter.