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Flashy International Guard Brings the Whole Package to the Pros
One of the most intriguing prospects in the 2020 Draft is a 19-year-old lefty combo guard who was born in Florida, grew up in France and sharpened his game playing professionally in Germany.
Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?
Killian Hayes has the size and two-way skills to be a true difference-maker at the NBA level. And for an international player, he also might be one of the safest picks at the top of the lottery.
Hayes’ father, DeRon Hayes, played collegiately for Penn State and was the Nittany Lions’ third-leading scorer of all-time when he was finished. Killian was born in Lakeland, FL while his father was playing in the ABA during its brief revival. The elder Hayes would eventually go on to a solid career playing in France.
Growing up playing on French youth national teams and his dad’s former team in Cholet (which also produced Rudy Gobert) Killian played ahead of his age early and was named co-MVP of the Jordan Brand showcase event in New York in 2017. In 2018, he was named MVP of the FIBA Europe U-16 championships. Hayes was also the youngest player to post a double-double in the EuroCup since Ricky Rubio.
In his early teens, Hayes would play on French youth teams and spend summers with his father in Lakeland – playing against older, tougher competition from the Orlando area.
He’s a smooth, fluid player whose idol is Dwyane Wade but whose game reminds some scouts of fellow lefties, D’Angelo Russell or even James Harden. He’s got a long way to go to catch either, but the international man of mystery has cleared every hurdle so far.
Essentially, Hayes has been the best natural player on the floor since he was 16 years old, and he’s ready to take the next step.
STRENGTHS Right off the top, pro scouts love Hayes’ size – standing 6-5, 215 with a 6-8 wingspan. He has all the point guard skills but has the size and skill to score and defend like a 2-guard.
Hayes has a great natural feel for the game and high basketball IQ. He has excellent court vision and his size helps. He’s a crafty passer with a knack for finding the open man. Not yet possessing elite handle, he can still get his shot anywhere in the halfcourt. Over his career, he’s honed his playmaking skills as the primary ballhandler in the pick-and-roll.
As a scorer, the lefty has an array of moves, most notably pull-ups and the step-back jumper ala Harden. His three-point shot is improving, but right now he’s more efficient in the midrange game. Bottom line: Hayes can already create his own shot.
On the defensive end, Hayes projects as a plus defender at the next level. While he’s not considered an explosive athlete, Hayes is a tough, cerebral one-on-one player on that end – using his length and instincts. He has quick hands, creating steals and a one-man fastbreak.
WEAKNESSES Hayes’ lack of true explosiveness and straight-line speed are a slight concern for scouts, who realize the game is about to get much faster when he faces NBA competition. In that respect, he’ll also need to add some muscle to a slight frame.
He can be left-hand dominant to a fault; he rarely drives and almost never finishes at the rim with his right hand. Again, the competition and coaching at the NBA level will exploit this flaw nightly.
As the top playmaker on the floor, Hayes can sometimes get out of control, trying to do too much and be turnover-prone. And while his pull-up and step-back game is sharp, he can rely on and settle for the outside shot.
None of these things will scare teams away on Draft night. But those teams also realize it’ll probably take some time for the youngster to adjust to life at the next level.
HOW HE'D FIT As we know, the Wine & Gold have gone with guards – Collin Sexton and Darius Garland – at the top of each of their past two drafts. And they selected Kevin Porter Jr. with the final pick of the First Round last year.
The question(s) for the Cavaliers, in terms of Killian Hayes, would then be: Can he start alongside one of those two guards, which one, and what will all three of their roles be?
Hayes is a long lefty who can handle the ball, score and defend. He also might have the highest upside than any backcourt player in this year’s incoming class. Would he fit in Cleveland – and how would his presence alter a backcourt the franchise has invested in heavily?