Everything You Need To Know About Killian Hayes

Killian Hayes has skyrocketed to the top of draft boards with his impressive playmaking and much improved scoring.

The intrigue and mystique that still surrounds international prospects today are stunning. They are treated as mythical creatures from a far-off land who are seen as frequently as Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster, despite a myriad of ways to watch them.

Killian Hayes is proving to not be an exception to this rule.

Hayes is landing all across draft boards, but he is one of the best point guards in this draft. Hayes is an incredible passer who has continued to improve his scoring repertoire. While the young point guard from France has some holes in his game, his offensive talent is undeniable.

When it comes to passing vision, Hayes is in the top tier of this draft. There isn’t an inch of the floor he doesn’t see or a pass he isn’t willing to make. Hayes is the type of point guard teammates will love to play with.

If you run in transition, he will find you.

If you set a good screen, he will set you up for an easy basket with a perfect pocket pass or well-timed lob.

If you are a good shooter, he will find you in the weak-side corner when your defender cheats towards the lane.

As the NBA continues to become more and more screen heavy, having a point guard who can navigate the pick-and-roll is a requirement. In the below clip, Hayes shows how he manipulates a defense to set up an easy lob.

As Hayes’ teammate sets the screen, the defense hedges while the on-ball defender goes over the screen. Once Hayes gets through the screen, he uses a subtle, but incredibly important, hesitation dribble. This move allows his man to half recover (Hayes always keeps him on his hip), instead of switching on the screener, and engages the hedging defender. Hayes has now absorbed both defenders leaving the screener unchecked as he rolls to the rim.

By continuing his dribble and attacking the lane, Hayes forces the defender lingering in the paint to recover to his man in the corner which sets up an uncontested dunk.

While finding the roll-man is important, having the vision and accuracy to find shooters has become vital. Spot-up scorers and shooters will thrive playing with Hayes if they can find the open spaces on the perimeter.

Below, Hayes shows off his ability to navigate the pick-and-roll and perfectly read the defense. The play starts similarly to the previous one with the defense hedging and going over the screen. Once Hayes gets through the screen, the defense fully switches. Hayes uses a simple hang-dribble to beat the big man. Most young point-guards wouldn’t recognize defensive coverage here and try to feed the rolling screener. Hayes’ initial defender has recovered while the weak-side defender has fully rotated, making a pass to the roll-man impossible.

Hayes sees this and has the passing vision and accuracy to find the open shooter in the opposite corner for a wide-open three.

Again, Hayes shows off his ability to find shooters. He uses the soft screen at the top of the key to force a switch. This generates several options for the offense. Hayes could dribble out to take the bigger defender off the dribble, exploit the mismatch in the post, or find a shooter on the wing.

Instead of forcing the issue, Hayes reads the defense and takes what they give him. Once the defense switches, Hayes dribbles back towards his left for a potential drive. The strong-side defender collapses to eliminate his driving lane, though. Hayes also recognizes that his big-man hasn’t established post position, but the weak-side defender is still holding the lane to eliminate a lob entry pass. Instead of forcing a bad shot or lob, Hayes makes a perfect live-dribble, one-handed pass to the shooter in the corner.

These types of passes bolster a point-guards playmaking ability. By having this skill at such a young age, Hayes can exploit defenses. By not having to gather into a pass, defenses have less time to recover on shooters.

While Hayes is a very promising playmaker, he has struggled when put under heavy pressure or forced to use his left. This is one of the most glaring holes in Hayes’s game. The good news is that developing his right hand is a very obtainable goal. The bad news is that the short-term results could be ugly.

Below, we can see Hayes struggle against a much smaller opponent even when using his left hand. Hayes has the size where he shouldn’t be affected by this defender at all. He should be able to see over the defense and hold his ground. Instead, Hayes is pushed back to half court and commits the turnover. 

Hayes’ complete lack of confidence and competence in his right hand is the most alarming aspect of his game right now. When forced to his right, he consistently picks up his dribble far too soon. This results in avoidable double teams and turnovers.

While this can stall the offense before it gets started, it completely limits Hayes’ ability to attack the rim. Below is an example of a scoring opportunity that is thwarted by Hayes’ inability to use his right. He initially does a nice job of getting his defender off balance and into the lane.

Instead of extending with his right for a cleaner look, Hayes tries a left-handed, off-balance floater.

Hayes’ impact as a playmaker is obvious, and despite his struggles under pressure and with his right hand, the most promising and interesting development of Hayes’s game is his scoring.

Last season, Hayes struggled to score off the dribble and with his outside shooting. This season, however, Hayes has made massive strides in both areas as averaged 39% from three on 4.1 attempts per game, 58% at the rim, and had an adjusted field goal percentage of 52.1 off the dribble.

These are promising numbers for Hayes’ continued development as a primary and off-ball scoring guard.

Hayes’ comfort running the pick-and-roll leads to not only scoring opportunities for his teammates but also himself. Here Hayes shows his effectiveness attacking the rim. As the screen is being set, Hayes immediately identifies the help defender’s poor positioning. His initial defender goes over the screen, but the screener’s defender stays with the screener, instead of hedging. This creates a wide-open lane for Hayes to attack.

The help defender tries to recover, but Hayes does a great job of using his length to extend with his left for an easy layup.

Hayes’ length will be an asset when attacking the rim, but his improved shooting touch and footwork make him a bigger threat as a scorer. Previously, opponents could easily go under screens when defending Hayes because he wasn’t a threat. Now, Hayes has shown the ability to knock down threes in these situations or utilize a crippling step-back to create space.

In the below clips we see how much of a threat Hayes has become as a shooter off the dribble. When defenders go under screens, he now has the confidence to step into an easy three. When they go over or guard him tightly, Hayes’ step-back creates a ton of space while not affecting his form.

Hayes has the foundation to develop into an offensive stud. He has great passing vision and accuracy. His length helps him finish at the rim, and his shooting touch and footwork have turned him into a scoring threat. If he can learn to handle pressure and not be a complete liability when he’s forced to his right, his offensive ceiling is very high.

There is a growing opinion among some factions that point guard defense doesn’t matter anymore. Hayes is very appealing to these people. I, however, still believe that a solid point-of-attack defender is important.

The red flags for Hayes on defense far outweigh the positives. He has poor awareness, struggles to keep his eye on his man and the ball, gets lost in screens, and struggles to defend the pick-and-roll. His inconsistent awareness is the biggest issue as we can see below.

Hayes’ defense is just nonexistent in this clip. He never gets low in his stance and he gets caught peeking at a nonexistent screener. Once Hayes hits midcourt, he is looking over at his shoulder worrying about a screen that never comes. This leads to his opponent driving past him with ease.

Here, Hayes is needlessly deterred by a screen and shows zero effort. Hayes switches once the screen is set, which is fine, but he doesn’t recognize how the play is developing. After the switch, he gets in a decent position, but he exerts zero effort to cut off the drive. Instead, he just stands there with his hands down and allows an easy layup.

With Hayes’ size, he should be able to guard multiple positions. This will lead to him defending away from the ball a good amount of the time. Below he is run through a series of screens that he desperately struggles to get through. He gets bumped off the first one and then covers an unnecessary amount of ground trying to get to the second one. Even though the start of this clip is rough, there are encouraging signs. Hayes continues to fight to recover and uses his length to force the turnover.

Since we all need some optimism right now, let's end on a good note. Even though Hayes has mostly struggled defensively, there have been flashes of how good he can be. Here, Hayes does a great job of suffocating his defender. He stays on the ball handler's hip, constantly forces him to his weak hand, beats the screener to the spot every time to avoid the screen, and uses his length to disrupt the passing lanes. When Hayes locks in defensively like this, his size and length can cause issues for opponents.

The immediate returns on Killian Hayes may be frustrating. There will be defensive lapses and a lot of turnovers. Long term, though, Hayes could develop into the best point guard from this draft. He is a strong playmaker who is consistently improving his scoring versatility.

Killian Hayes should be on every team’s radar as an early lottery pick. His offensive growth and defensive potential make him a promising talent who could become a team’s consistent starting point guard for a long time.

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