Luka Doncic proved that tall guards from Europe could come over to the NBA and dominate right away and the next player from across the pond to make an impact could be Killian Hayes.
Born in Lakeland, Florida to a professional basketball-playing father, Hayes quickly moved to France where he got the rigid basketball education of the European system. At age 16 he began his professional career for French club Cholet and after two seasons signed with Ratiopharm Ulm in the Basketball Bundesliga (the top league in Germany).
There his NBA hype really started to build.
Running the point at 6'5" and 210 pounds Hayes devoured competition with his ability to create for teammates and proficiency in isolation scoring. With great size and a ball-dominant offensive style, he earned the reputation as German league James Harden, some lofty praise that speaks to his scoring acumen.
Hayes hasn't gotten the same attention as some of the other names at the top of the draft but he has the potential to end up as the star of the class.
All the physical tools are present and he's got the kind of innate offensive IQ that you simply can't teach. Scouts will be in love with the polish of his offensive game for a player with excellent size, and his age is a major positive too. At only 18 years old (though he'll be 19 at the time of the re-scheduled draft) he's already developed and considering his age he may be only scratching the surface of what he can be.
Scoring in isolation is about as difficult of a skill as there is in basketball and Hayes has the ability to pour in points without needing a play call.
Incredibly crafty he measures a defender with a couple of dribbles before finding a weak foot and attacking it. At 6'5" and 210 pounds he only needs to get his shoulders by his defender and if that happens, it's game over. With the muscle to protect the ball as soon as he gets the slightest step on a defender, there isn't much an opponent can do once Hayes gets into the lane.
What sets up his attacking game off the dribble is the threat of his pull up jumper. Hayes has a lethal step-back jumper that's as devastating as any signature move of a player we've seen in this class, something the advanced numbers back up. A staggering 42% of his three-point shots off the dribble fell in Germany last year, something that if he comes even close to replicating in the NBA would be astonishing.
The step-back jumper is all about creating space and Hayes has all the dribble moves to set it up, as well as the balance and technically sound footwork to get his feet under him for a controlled attempt. As NBA defences continue to get more advanced it's going to be players that are comfortable improvising and creating shots for themselves that will thrive and Hayes looks to have those skills.
When he's not creating shots for himself Hayes is a willing and capable passer. Averaging 6.2 assists per game for Ratiopharm Ulm he was unquestionably their number one creator and oftentimes he did it in style. Hayes is particularly fond of the bounce pass off the roll, especially when the window is tight and his pinpoint execution can lead to a big man getting a layup. Another one of his fortes is the hit ahead pass in transition where he effortlessly can throw the ball on a rope into the hands of sprinting wings.
Defensively Hayes is someone who loves the big play. A number of LeBron-style chase down blocks colour his highlight reel and he's also known for shooting gaps and coming away with steals.
Switching defensively is made easy for him due to his strong 6'5" frame and his 6'7" wingspan which allows him to play even bigger.
Hayes is left-handed, something that becomes apparent very quickly when you watch him.
That's because he is extremely left-hand dominant and struggles mightily with his right. Whether it's dribbling to his right, finishing with his right, or passing with his right it doesn't come easily at all for Hayes and for that reason he avoids it at all costs. Oftentimes Hayes will choose not to take an open driving lane if it's to his right hand and on a number of occasions he forced up awkward left-handed floaters instead of attempting open right-hand layups.
It hasn't hurt him a ton in Europe but in the NBA teams are going to force him to his right in pick and roll settings and he'll be challenged to make responsible weak hand plays.
Right now Hayes is a bit of a burst defender who will show effort for brief moments of glory when it means a huge block or steal but he's far from consistent on that end.
As a guard in the NBA, he's going to need to guard multiple actions on the same possession and if he doesn't show the dedication to fight through every screen and sprint to a rotation he's going to be exposed. A good but not great defender Hayes isn't someone who can rely on physical gifts to hang defensively--he'll need technique and discipline.
Hayes is a spectacular shooting off the dribble but his three-point efficiency off the catch is dismal.
Only hitting 18% of his threes off the catch last season he wasn't a threat off the ball and that could spell trouble for him as a young NBA player. It's likely that he isn't going to step right into an offensive initiator role with the ball in his hands and for that reason he'll need to be a floor spacer who can hit shots. Luckily he was a 91% free throw shooter which suggests he has a pretty good stroke but right now it hasn't been fully realized.
Projected NBA Draft Position: 3-8
Projected NBA Role: Pick and roll guard.
NBA Comparison: D'Angelo Russell
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