Detroit Pistons draft preview: Hayes could fill void for a long-term answer at point guard

Killian Hayes
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

History says it’s a virtual certainty a future All-Star, perhaps even a future MVP, will be available when the Pistons go on the clock to make the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

It’s too early to judge the 2018 and ’19 drafts – though early returns suggest form will hold as young players like Tyler Herro (13th pick in 2019) and Shea Gilgeous-Alexander (11th pick in ’18) already appear on an All-Star track – but go back a decade and every draft has produced players who either already are or will be multi-time All-Stars or even MVP winners who were taken with the seventh pick or beyond.

The 2017 draft has already produced All-Stars in Donovan Mitchell (13th) and Bam Adebayo (14th). Jamal Murray, a breakout star of the NBA’s Orlando bubble, was the seventh pick in 2016. Devin Booker was the 13th pick in 2015 and Nikola Jokic went 41st in 2014.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 15th pick in 2013 and three-time All-Star – and three-time NBA champion – Draymond Green was the 35th pick in 2012. His Golden State teammate, Klay Thompson, was the 11th pick in 2011 when two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard went 15th. Paul George was the 10th pick in 2010 and two-time MVP Steph Curry was the seventh pick in 2009.

So when Dwane Casey said in early October, after months of digesting video of top prospects, he was confident the Pistons would get a foundational piece at the seventh pick, he had history – and faith in the eye of new general manager Troy Weaver – in his corner.

Leading to the Nov. 18 draft, Pistons.com will profile 12 candidates to hear their name called when the Pistons announce the pick. Next up: guard Killian Hayes.

FIRST-ROUND CANDIDATE: KILLIAN HAYES

ID CARD: 6-foot-5 guard, France, 19 years old

DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 9th by ESPN.com, 9th by The Athletic, 7th by SI.com

SCOUTS LOVE: Hayes’ vision and passing combined with his size at point guard give him the tool kit to be an elite playmaker once he physically matures and gets a sense of NBA game speed and personnel. He’s played professionally for two years in France’s Pro A League, where he spent most of his time off of the ball, and last year in Germany where Hayes went primarily for the opportunity to play point guard ahead of jumping to the NBA. Hayes’ team, Ulm, played in the competitive EuroCup – not quite EuroLeague level but quality professional competition nevertheless – and finished third in assists (6.2) and 10th in steals (1.5) in the league. In his 10 EuroCup games, Hayes also averaged 12.8 points in 28 minutes a game and shot 45.5 percent overall, 39 percent from the 3-point arc and 90.9 percent from the foul line, strong indicators that he’ll eventually be a plus 3-point shooter in the NBA. Hayes is also seen as a high-IQ, high-character player.

SCOUTS WONDER: The big knock on Hayes is that he’s extremely left-hand dominant as a ballhandler and passer. Though there are examples of NBA players who’ve thrived while rarely using their weak hand – Clyde Drexler and John Stockton are Hall of Famers – it’s fair to be skeptical of anyone’s likelihood of becoming an above-average starter with such a profile. The higher the competition level becomes, it stands to reason, the more difficult it will become for Hayes to get away with being one-hand dominant. While Hayes showed marked growth in his time in Germany, it’s still a relatively small sample size of him as a primary playmaker/ballhandler. With solid but less than difference-making athleticism, there might be a ceiling on Hayes’ scoring ability that argues against drafting him in the top half of the lottery. Most players experience better results in catch-and-shoot situations than off of the dribble, but Hayes beat the average off the dribble yet was a very poor – as in less than 20 percent – shooter in catch-and-shoot situations.

NUMBER TO NOTE: 4.4 – That’s how many turnovers Hayes averaged per-36 minutes in EuroCup play last season. The number improved as the season went along, but it remains a concern and underscores skepticism about Hayes’ ability to stand up to NBA defensive pressure while limited to using his left hand.
MONEY QUOTE: “I think, coming in, I can have an impact right away. With my experience – I know the game and I can really adjust to any set and have an impact right away.” Killian Hayes on his credentials as a lottery pick while speaking during the NBA’s recent virtual draft combine.

PISTONS FIT: As a playmaker with size, Hayes fits an obvious need for a Pistons roster that has only veteran Derrick Rose under contract at point guard. Dwane Casey wants to stack his roster with multiple playmakers, so you can bet that the Pistons will look to sign a point guard in free agency even if they bring back two-way player Jordan Bone and draft a point guard in the lottery. It would benefit a rookie point guard to share playmaking responsibilities and lessen the burden of being an every-possession facilitator. Were Hayes to become the Pistons’ pick, he would be the second consecutive French teen to be drafted by them in the first round after they took Sekou Doumbouya 15th last year. “I have a great relationship with Sekou,” Hayes said. “I did multiple camps with him. It would be an easier adjustment since I know him (and) he knows the city of Detroit. I would feel comfortable right away. Sekou’s a great guy. That would be cool.”

BOTTOM LINE: Though Hayes, who was born in Florida and is the son of former Penn State star JeRon Hayes, is rarely listed in mock drafts among the top six picks, his size, vision and potential as a three-level scorer make him a strong candidate to be picked ahead of his perceived draft slot. Prevented from playing five-on-five basketball since March by pandemic circumstances, Hayes has worked diligently on adding strength to an impressive frame. He’s been variously compared to a number of lefty scorers of recent vintage – James Harden, Manu Ginobili, D’Angelo Russell and Goran Dragic – and he’s studying videotape of Steve Nash during the shutdown. He says he soaked up all the YouTube videos he could get of Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose as a kid. There’s a wealth of offensive genius in the composite of those players and Hayes – given his makeup, IQ and background – has a chance to pull together the best elements of their games and eventually join their company. He’s as likely a candidate as anyone to be on the short list under consideration for the seventh pick if he lasts that long.

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