Killian Hayes will sit for the next two games at least to give the young point guard’s sprained thumb a chance to heal, the team announced Monday. Hayes originally sprained the left thumb Oct. 28 against the Philadelphia 76ers and had attempted to play through the pain.
Seemingly in every game since then there has been a moment where Hayes has re-aggravated the injury on the court. Hayes’ defense in that time has stayed strong, but he’s taken even more of a backseat in the offense to ease the wear and tear on his hand. Even with those accommodations, the hand doesn’t appear to be getting appreciably better, and when Hayes removed the wrap he wears during games, you could still see noticeable bruising and swelling.
In his absence, it is likely Cory Joseph will get the start at point guard and Cade Cunningham will continue playing an increased role in guiding the offense. Cunningham is getting more comfortable and has 22 assists to just seven turnovers in his past three games. That includes Monday’s loss to the the Los Angeles Lakers when Cunningham became the youngest player in Pistons history to record a triple-double.
Still, Cunningham is going through the ups and downs of a rookie season with a few head-scratching passes per game and he has continued to struggle from the floor. In that triple-double game against the Lakers, he was just 6-of-21 overall including 1-of-9 from deep.
For his part, Hayes was finally looking settled in right before his recent injury. His perimeter defense is the best on the team, and he’s constantly generating pressure and getting opportune steals. His offense remains a work in progress, but he’s been better about picking his spots and putting at least a little pressure on defenses.
For the season, Hayes is averaging 5.6 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Based on the current timeline, the earliest Hayes could return is a trip to LA as part of Detroit’s five-game west-coast swing. If it looks like he’ll need more recovery time, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t bring him on the trip at all and the first game he played was Dec. 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.