clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Know the Prospect: Killian Hayes

The best player in this draft.

Ratiopharm Ulm v MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg - EasyCredit Basketball Bundesliga
Gotta create separation!
Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

OK, Jim. Today we chop it up over Killian Hayes, a big, wiggly dance partner for your local point guard social who comes from France. A Florida man by birth who just turned 19, he’s been playing professionally for three years! I’ve seen his weight listed anywhere from 146 to 215 pounds, so he’s probably in there somewhere. I’ve also seen his height from 6’3” to 6’5.5”, so let’s call it what it is: 6’4” with an absolutely concrete and nice (close to) 6’9” wingspan.

The Killswitch spent his first two seasons with Pro A Cholet, where his dad, a Penn State alum by the name of DeRon Hayes, made a few stops along his own professional career. After Cholet, Killian moved over to the Bundesliga, in Germany, playing one season for ratiopharm Ulm. Just 18 years young, starting and setting the table alongside Zoran Dragic and former Kentucky Wildcats, Derek Willis and Isaiah Briscoe (who frequents some of those high profile Chris Brickley training sessions in the off season). Ulm got thoroughly rinsed in EuroCup, finishing 1-9. But hey — I don’t know if you know — teams led by teenagers don’t always fare so well in men’s leagues.

Anyhow, for my imaginary money Killian is the best player in the draft, and there are plenty of reasons to think he’ll slip past some of the teams slated to pick in front of the Knicks. Not least of all, the Cavs aren’t going to even bother interviewing him. There’s also Golden State who may be more interested in immediate help than they are bolstering their future. Interestingly, some teams with later picks either have or intend to meet with him. So the general perception might be that Hayes is considered a late lotto grab more so than a top five player (which happens to be incorrect).

No matter where you view Hayes or the Knicks’ priorities in the draft— they’re slated to pick sixth or higher and they can drop no lower than tenth — Madison Square West could be prime real estate for a team interested in the cerulean haze and emerald fields of a true lead guard. I worry about the Detroit Pistons who are one slot ahead of New York. What the hell are they gonna do, those evildoers? So... alright. Let’s talk about this kid, Jim.

Offensive Good

Imagine you could mix together the first inklings of Linsanity, Pablo B. Sneaking and Chauncey Billups into one neat little package. Would you like that? The Knicks have been absolutely starving for a creative point guard that can put a few orange circles in that bottomless basket while making sure the rest of the team is still eating good for decades. In my estimation they had that guy with Rod Strickland and they had parts of that guy with Stephon Marbury and Mark Jackson. They’ve tried all variety of table setters from then to now.

In recent times they’ve gone from Ramon Sessions and Jarrett Jack to Emmanuel Mudiay to Elfrid Payton, and all the stopgaps in between. There is no harmony in the Knicks universe. Every one of these bullshitters has had no actual top shelf offensive skill to separate themselves from the pack. In fact, the only thing they’ve had in common is they pushed young players way down the rotation and none of them could score the god-damned basketball. Killian Hayes can score, friends.

In the half-court or hustling out in transition this kid has excellent, dare I say elite, touch on all three levels: a deft array of floaters and step-throughs to get the ball up on the rim from in tight, loping side-step exploits and step-back teleportations generate huge berths for pull up triples. In between he has the stop-and-go ability to keep defenders totally off balance- rocking back on their heels then tip toeing up to the edge of a cliff as they flail trying to square up. They’re essentially holding a lit match while sinking into an Olympic-sized pool of dynamite.

The threat of his shot is a post hole digger that drags big stiffs too far off their matchups and drops them in the ditch. Here’s where we see his truest instinct, as a refined pick-and-roll playmaker. Snaking and shaking, ha-haa. Hitting big target rollers and cat burglar cutters, lacing over the shoulder comets to the weak side with ease and confidence. Killian’s helpers have the trappings of a bourgeoisie-bilderberg-hipster level elite playmaker. Finding guys when they need it as opposed to when they want it. Passing people open and lofting it into the hands of all those springy 6’8” centers in the Euroleagues. Please salivate over the idea of Killarmy turning the Garden upside down connecting with Mitchell Robinson so cleanly that defenses start giving him open looks because they can’t keep track of all the plates he keeps spinning.

Offensive Bad

Hopefully we have Scotty Perry’s usury booted by Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau so whoever they draft is granted the opportunity to get game experience. It sounds like it, which is good, because most of Killian’s troubles can be lumped into the folly of youth.

Extremely left-hand dominant, defenses routinely short circuited simple movement going to his right by simply sending him weak and having a helper shade. Killian uses his body well to shield from pokey pokers, so this problem hasn’t been a dead-to-rights turnover or anything, but it can gum up the gears and it certainly led to some unedited passing — get a little too loose and those meatballs can be freely scooped up by smart defensive ladling.

Then there are times going right where he may have a step on his defender or he put ‘em in jail, but he balks at fully committing to the obvious drive/pass/shot. He’ll stop short and turn his whole body to get back on his dominant hand. It leads to awkward decisions a split second after the window of opportunity has been painted shut. This same misgiving was Kevin Knox’s deadly sin as a lanky 19-year old but Hayes will be asked to perform in a much higher wattage spotlight.

As it stands even when Hayes’ instincts are correct, he just needs some finish work to really show what’s so beautiful about the structure. It’s possible a lack of elite athleticism will be even more pronounced in the NBA. As Killian’s shoulders fill in he’ll need to be more willing to use his frame to burst a seam and get to the foul line as often as possible. Picking up your dribble less and tightening down some rickety underpinnings often come with age and wisdom. The only real question to me is whether he’ll be the tireless gym rat or the satisfied savant. If he ends up being the former, you might be reading about a multiple All-Star at a position of dire need and with a skillset tailored to the modern NBA.

Offensive Neutral

Killian’s size for the position makes his good-not-great athleticism a little more functional. Is there a level to unlock? Certainly looks like he has the frame and game that could layer on a couple slabs of beef, but staying lighter would probably help his unimposing lift when attacking the basket. If he bulks up, the next question becomes, will he use his frame to throttle opponents or not.

You can also see a little bit of a funky shot that looks like it has a nasty thumb flick and a sort of Bill Cartwright-ian overhead chest pass situation going on. Ultimately he seems to pull the guide hand away to add a little Michael Adams style flare to his jumper. Thankfully he doesn’t have a hitch or a hoist, and he shoots from straight on at the charity stripe. Nevertheless, potentially something to keep an eye on if he starts missing wide left.

Thats one way to eliminate a thumb flick.

His 3-point shooting went from really bad in year two with Cholet (19.2% on 2.1 per game) to less bad in year three with Ulm (29.4% on 3.1) and got a little spicy in EuroCup play (.390 on 4.1). That could make skeptics wary. Do these small sample sizes really show progress? Or does his free throw percentage starting at .860 in 2017-18, slipping a tad to .820 the following year and then jumping all the way up to .876 in 2019-20 make you say, yea nah, that’s a real weapon. If it’s just an upward trajectory, will he be able to keep those percentages on a higher volume?

Defensive Good

There’s the legit shooting skills — as opposed to the perceived future capability — that makes me more comfortable with Killian over LaMelo Ball. It’s watching the hay being made on defense that separates these two completely for me. A tactical ballhawk getting over screens, Hayes does a great job stretching out to push simple swing passes from catch and shoots into catch and make-a-decisions. He keeps his hands up and lively in passing lanes, even if the action isn’t directly in front of him. It’s subtle, but that’s the type of thing that sets up the dominoes for a shaky possession. From there he’s always a willing gang rebounder, helping close it out.

Off-ball he is similarly tactical, sinking in to make drivers wary, bumping cutters to slow down the offense’s water wheel, pinching a big guy on that fleshy part above the elbow. When you’re not paying attention, that stuff can really hurt. Now we turn to SP the Ghost!

Yep. Best player in the draft. You don’t like what I’m saying but you know shit’s true.

Defensive Bad

Friends, he’s a cheater. Consistently hanging around the free throw line as a helper leaves him open to getting sprayed on if they hit the skip. Late close outs will cut a little deeper in the NBA. Just the simple fact of having opponents stationed a few feet further out could turn a slow rotation into outright giving up the open look. You just can’t get away with that kind of cheating at the top of the heap.

He’ll have to do a better job of knowing personnel, which theoretically won’t be a problem if Tom Thibodeau has anything to say about it. You can’t just leave anyone open, unless you’re playing the Knicks. In that case you simply send all your defenders to Julius Randle. He’ll spin into the help and throw the ball off your chest or dribble it off his own appendages.

The Euro leagues have slightly different rules that accentuate team defense. With no defensive three-second violations, players can clog up the middle more freely by zoning. The FIBA three point line is also 22’2” as opposed to 23’9” in the NBA. This tilts some of Killian’s off- ball defensive instincts just a bit. I don’t think this means he can’t cover that ground as needed, but regardless, there will be a bit of an incline for him adjusting to the NBA stylings. So while this aspect is probably bad right now, he’s still working with a solid foundation both on and off the ball. Youth is nothing to fret over for the time being.

Defensive Neutral

Here’s where a lack of elite athleticism shows up again. He isn’t just smothering what’s smoldering like Frank Ntilikina, nor darting around closing off all access points like De’Aaron Fox, but his attention to detail and size for the position means he’ll be switchable on either guard slot and the occasional wing. He’s not a hider but he’s not the guy guarding the guy with the game on the line if you can help it. Be that as it may, he should definitely be in the game during crunch time.

Said it before and I’ll say it again. Killian is my ace in this case and it’s not leaving a trace. I’ll tell you why I’ve got him over the lugubrious pall of LaMelo Ball but you’re not gonna like it. You ready? This is everything you need to know. Lean in.

Hot dogs and cheeseburger, baby!